Twitter asks users for help in developing new rules to stop ‘dehumanizing’ speech on the platform

Annie Palmer | The Daily Mail | Source URL

Twitter may finally be answering users' demands for it to 'ban Nazis.'

In a blog post Tuesday, Twitter executives said they're considering a new policy that prevents people from using dehumanizing language on the site. 

The policy isn't official just yet, however, as the company is seeking user feedback before it moves forward with it. 

'For the last three months, we have been developing a new policy to address dehumanizing language on Twitter,' the firm wrote in a blog post. 

'Language that makes someone less than human can have repercussions on the service, including normalizing serious violence.

'Some of this content falls within our hateful conduct policy...but there are still tweets many people consider to be abusive, even when they do not break our rules. Better addressing this gap is part of our work to serve a healthy public conversation.' 

As part of the policy, Twitter will take action against content that dehumanizes others 'based on their membership in an identifiable group,' even when it doesn't directly target an individual or group.

The firm defines dehumanizing language as anything that treats others as less than human, such as comparing them to animals or viruses, or reducing groups 'to their genitalia.'

Further, it outlines identifiable groups as 'any group of people that can be distinguished by their shared characteristics,' including race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion and many other things. 

Users now have until October 9th to give feedback on the proposed policy through a form on the company's website.  

After the feedback period ends, the policy will go into effect later this year. Twitter intends to use a combination of automated tools and human moderators to police dehumanizing content on the platform. 

The rules should address some of the grey areas that result from Twitter's current hate policies. 

Twitter has been previously scrutinized over its handling of hate speech. Twitter was one of the last platforms to ban right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones when it did so last month

While those are limited to when someone is '@mentioned,' these apply to all groups.  

Twitter has been criticized in the past for its inaction toward Nazis and other offensive groups that spread hate speech on the site. 

Its treatment of the issue came under further scrutiny when Twitter was one of the last platforms to ban right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. 

The social media site said Jones posted tweets and videos that violated its policies on abusive behavior.     


Twitter says it does not tolerate behaviour that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence other social network users.

Twitter users that violate these rules could find their content deleted, or their access to the account suspended by the social network.

What does Twitter forbid?

According to the company, it will remove any tweets that do the following —

  • Threaten physical violence
  • Promote attacks on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease 
  • References to mass murder, violent events, or specific means of violence in which such groups are the primary targets or victims
  • Incites fear about a certain protected group
  • Repeated use of non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes
  • Content designed to degrade a specific user     

Twitter users can target individuals or specific groups in a number of manners, for example using the @ mention feature, or tagging a photo. 

How does Twitter enforce these rules?

According to the company, the first thing it does whenever an account or tweet is flagged as inappropriate is check the context.

Twitter says: 'some Tweets may seem to be abusive when viewed in isolation, but may not be when viewed in the context of a larger conversation.

'While we accept reports of violations from anyone, sometimes we also need to hear directly from the target to ensure that we have proper context.'

Twitter says the total number of reports received around an individual post or account does not impact whether or not something will be removed.

However, it could help Twitter prioritise the order in which it looks through flagged tweets and accounts.

What happens if you violate Twitter's policy? 

The consequences for violating our rules will vary depending on the severity of the violation and the person’s previous record of violations, Twitter says. 

The penalties range from requesting a user voluntarily remove an offending tweet, to suspending an entire account. 

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