Emotional roll-out: Twitter introduces a new policy, prohibits ‘dehumanizing speech’

Emotional roll-out: Twitter introduces a new policy, prohibits ‘dehumanizing speech’

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Twitter on Tuesday reached out to users for help crafting a ban on comments that dehumanize people and set the stage for real-world violence.

A policy change that Twitter has been working on for several months is intended to broaden hateful content restrictions at the service to include barring tweets dehumanizing people based on race, religion, sexual orientation or other social grouping.

“We want to expand our hateful conduct policy to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target,” Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde and Del Harvey wrote in a blog post.

The policy has reportedly been in the works for the past three months, and it’s part of the company’s larger initiative to “improve conversational health” on the platform. Twitter is still actively working to define what “conversational health” actually means. But it has already taken several proactive steps that have shown a marked difference in decreasing trolling and bullying on the platform.

“Language that makes someone less than human can have repercussions off the service, including normalizing serious violence,” Vijaya Gadde and Del Harvey of the Twitter trust and safety team said in a blog post.

“We want to expand our hateful conduct policy to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.”

Twitter policy already bans comments that promote violence or threats based on discrimination, but abusive tweets that do not break the company’s rules are still fired of at the service, according to Gadde and Harvey.

In an unusual step, Twitter asked for feedback from users around the world regarding wording to be used in the policy amendment.

“We want your feedback to ensure we consider global perspectives and how this policy may impact different communities and cultures,” Gadde and Harvey said.

Twitter users will have until Tuesday, October 9, at 6:00am PST to provide Twitter with feedback on the policy (you can do so here). Twitter then plans to update the rules “later this year.”

Twitter chief and co-founder Jack Dorsey early this month told US lawmakers that the San Francisco-based service was “unprepared and ill-equipped” for the vast campaigns of manipulation that affected social media in the past few years.

It’s difficult not to draw a connection between this new policy and the back-and-forth controversy surrounding Twitter’s eventual banning of Alex Jones. During that time, many criticized the way that Twitter was applying its hate speech policy to Jones; that is, it wasn’t. This new policy further defines the kind of speech disallowed by twitter, and broadens the scope of harmful speech beyond needing to include an individual “@.” Harvey and Gadde indeed addressed this need for further elucidation.

Dorsey, appearing before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence campaigns on social media, said the messaging service was set up to function as a “public square” but failed to deal with “abuse, harassment, troll armies, propaganda through bots.”

“We aren’t proud of how that free and open exchange has been weaponized and used to distract and divide people, and our nation,” he told senators.

“We found ourselves unprepared and ill-equipped for the immensity of the problems we’ve acknowledged.”

Dorsey said Twitter has stepped up its effort to protect what he called a “healthy public square” but that the challenges were daunting.

 

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