Twitter is updating its hate-speech rules to ban posts that liken religious groups to rats, viruses or maggots, among other dehumanising terms.
Over time, the ban would be extended to cover to some other groups, it said.
But a public consultation had indicated users still wished to use dehumanising language to criticise political organisations and hate groups.
Tech companies have struggled to strike a balance between free expression and protecting users from attack.
Twitter said it had taken “months of conversations” to decide on the policy.
“Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm – and research shows that dehumanising language increases that risk,” the company said in a blog.
Twitter bans ‘dehumanizing’ posts toward religious groups
Twitter now prohibits hate speech that targets religious groups by using dehumanizing language, a ban it says may extend to other categories like race and gender.
The social network already bars hateful language directed at individual religious adherents. It also bans hate speech on the basis of someone’s race, gender and other categories. Tuesday’s change broadens the hate speech rule to forbid likening entire religious groups to subhumans or vermin, without targeting a specific individual.
Twitter Backs Off Broad Limits on ‘Dehumanizing’ Speech
After a year of debate and criticism, an effort to add to a policy on banned speech led to a narrower restriction that applies only when religious groups are targeted.
Last August, Twitter’s top executives gathered at the company’s headquarters to discuss how to make the site safer for its users. Two attendees proposed banning all speech that could be considered “dehumanizing.” For an example of what they meant, they showed a sample post that featured the words President Trump used to compare certain nations to excrement.
By January, Twitter had backed off from deeming that sample tweet dehumanizing. Instead, the post was included in an internal company slide show, which helps train Twitter moderators, as the kind of message that should be allowed on the platform.
Twitter bans dehumanizing posts about religious groups
Twitter announced on Tuesday it will update its policy against hateful conduct to cover posts that dehumanize people based on their religion, bringing the social network roughly in line with Facebook and YouTube and marking the latest change to hate speech rules that critics say are ineffective.
The update builds on Twitter’s existing policies that bar the promotion of violence, threats and harassment against people in protected groups. But the company has acknowledged that what many people consider abusive tweets may not actually violate Twitter’s rules. New policies banning dehumanizing language are an attempt to close that gap, Twitter said.