Twitter is expanding its rules on hateful conduct and will soon police “dehumanising speech” on its platform. The move could help stamp out some of the vilest content on the social network — if the company can adequately enforce it.
The company announced the new rules in a blog Tuesday. In the post, Twitter trust and safety executives Del Harvey and Vijaya Gadde wrote that Twitter’s scope of “dehumanising speech” will “include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target”.
The post also provided their definition of dehumanisation:
Language that treats others as less than human. Dehumanization can occur when others are denied of human qualities (animalistic dehumanization) or when others are denied of human nature (mechanistic dehumanization). Examples can include comparing groups to animals and viruses (animalistic), or reducing groups to their genitalia (mechanistic).
The new policy will go into effect later this year. Twitter is asking users to submit feedback on the policy by October 9.
In an email to Gizmodo, Twitter provided some clarification on how the new policy differs from the current hateful conduct policy.
“The biggest change when the new policy is implemented will be that it will include non-targeted content. Previously under our hateful conduct policy, if you @mentioned or specified an individual, it would be in violation,” the spokesperson said. “With the expanded policy, ‘X group’ is a virus’ would be a violation.”
The spokesperson said Twitter plans on enforcing the policy in ways similar to its current hateful conduct policy, using automated tools and human moderators to review content and enforce rules. “Additionally, we’re working to improve our appeals process so that when we enforce incorrectly, people have a robust process to help us correct and improve,” the spokesperson said.
The current hateful conduct policy is meant to prevent users from harassing or threatening people on basis of gender, sexual orientation or race. But the company is often blasted for not properly enforcing these rules.
Twitter recently faced public criticism for allowing Alex Jones and Infowars to continue tweeting after other tech companies had blocked Infowars from their platforms for violating abusive behaviour and hate speech policies.