'Hateful': Twitter flags Texas attorney general's tweet about former Pa. Health Secretary Rachel Levine

James Hartley
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)
Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine visits the York County YMCA to announce the findings of the Wolf Administration’s COVID-19 Response Task Force for Health Disparity, Thursday, August 13, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

FORT WORTH, Texas — Twitter has decided it would be in the public's best interest to keep a tweet from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on its website after he called U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine a man.

Levine, who was named one of USA Today's Women of the Year, is transgender and a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

USA Today's list also includes Olympic athlete Simone Biles and Dallas-born former Microsoft computer scientist Melinda French Gates.

Paxton's tweet Thursday was flagged by Twitter for "hateful conduct." It comes amid controversy over Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order for Child Protective Services to investigate parents for alleged child abuse if they provide gender-affirming treatment to their minor children. A judge blocked the order March 11.

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Paxton wrote an opinion supporting the governor's order. Earlier this month, the family of a transgender teen who in 2016 had Paxton over for dinner in hopes of changing his views told the Texas Tribune they were under investigation for child abuse after the order from Abbott.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Paxton's tweet was a phone screenshot of the USA Today list showing Levine as one of the USA Today Women of the Year with the caption, "Rachel Levine is a man."

Twitter does not delete all tweets that violate its rules. If keeping a tweet on the platform is seen as being in the best interest of the public, the platform hides it behind a warning that requires users to click "View" in order to read, and marks it as a tweet that violates rules. It removes the ability to like and comment on the tweet, but not the ability to retweet it.

According to Twitter, an exception for having a tweet removed requires the account to be verified, have more than 100,000 followers and be an elected official, someone in an appointed government leadership position, a candidate or nominee for a political office or the account of a registered political party.

The platform is more likely to remove a tweet that matches those criteria if "the tweet includes a declarative call to action that could harm a specific individual or group" or "shares information or engages in behavior that could directly interfere with an individual's exercise of their fundamental rights."