Twitter 'dehumanization policy' aims to curb hateful speech

Twitter plans to release a new policy on dehumanizing speech later this year, and the social media company wants to know what you think about it.

The goal is to expand Twitter's existing 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, say Twitter's Legal, Policy, and Trust & Safety Lead Vijaya Gadde and VP of Trust & Safety Del Harvey.

Twitter's existing policy prohibits threats or direct attacks against other users based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and more. But the enforcement of those rules is inconsistent, and Twitter is regularly criticized for seemingly arbitrary action on reported tweets.

The company has taken some steps to curb abuse by banning hateful display names, but this would be the first substantive change to its harassment policies to incorporate the broad swath of dehumanizing and hateful speech that falls outside its existing enforcement.

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Twitter's inconsistency on this front was apparent during the Alex Jones saga. When Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube all banned the Infowars host over hate speech, Twitter chose not to take action, a move CEO Jack Dorsey initially defended. Later, Twitter enacted a one-week ban followed by a permanent one soon after.

Following the Jones fiasco, Harvey tweeted out an internal email to staff stating that Twitter was "shifting our timeline forward for reviewing the dehumanization policy." Ultimately, Twitter wants to stop its platform from normalizing violence.

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