Activists blast Twitter's hateful conduct policy update as 'simplistic'

Twitter updated its hateful conduct policy to ban posts that dehumanize others based on their religion, but activists are demanding the company take more action.

In a move on Tuesday that puts the social media company more in line with Facebook and Google-owned YouTube, Twitter will now take down tweets flagged by users that compare members of religious groups to a range of animals and rodents, which is a tactic that's used to target Muslims, Jews and Christians.

The racial justice organization Color of Change, which has worked with Twitter and Facebook on accountability and transparency regarding content moderation, said the policy update was a step in the right direction but that more urgent action is needed.

"Twitter's update is too simplistic for the complicated world we live in, and fails to address the nuanced intersections of its users' identities," Rashad Robinson, Color of Change president, said in a statement to Fox News. "Twitter's failure to ban all forms of dehumanization immediately casts doubt on the company's commitment to fully stopping hate on the platform."

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(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Color of Change, along with the Change the Terms coalition, met with a Twitter executive in fall 2018 to discuss ways to improve the company's content moderation policies, among other topics, but the organization says Twitter has not "actively engaged" with advocates since then.

The civil rights organization Muslim Advocates says Twitter's hate speech policy needs to be robust and comprehensive.

“Twitter’s policy update is a very positive step in the right direction. Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and other religious minorities are often targeted with dangerous slurs and conspiracy theories and we applaud genuine efforts to remove this content from social media platforms," said Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates' special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry, in a statement to Fox News. "However, the effectiveness of this new policy will depend on how Twitter enforces it."

A spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League told Fox News via email that hate and harassment on Twitter are longstanding problems.

"The fact that language dehumanizing others on the basis of religion only now violates Twitter's rules shows how far they have to go to truly combat hate. We have urged Twitter to track and release the results of this and other policy changes to be transparent about the efficacy of their efforts."

In response to the criticism, a Twitter spokesperson told Fox News: "Our intent is to continue expanding the policy, this is by no means the end."

According to Twitter's blog post announcing the update, Twitter solicited feedback last year and received more than 8,000 responses from people in 30 countries.

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“We create our rules to keep people safe on Twitter, and they continuously evolve to reflect the realities of the world we operate within,” the Jack Dorsey-led tech company said in its blog post. “Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk.”

Facebook already bans dehumanizing speech against people who are members of "protected" groups and has recently updated its policy to explicitly ban white nationalism and white separatism. YouTube has also cracked down on similar hate speech and purged thousands of channels from its platform.

However, critics have countered that Big Tech is still not doing enough to stop the spread of hate speech, especially in the wake of a ProPublica investigation that uncovered a secret Facebook group for thousands of Border Patrol agents that was rife with sexist and racist language.

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