Thursday, September 27, 2018

Twitter Implementing European-Style Hate Speech Bans

Will it stop toxic behavior or just encourage more demands for censorship?

Twitter's leadership announced this morning that it is broadening its bans on "hateful" conduct to try to cut down on "dehumanizing" behavior.

The social media platform already bans (or attempts to ban, anyway) speech that targets an individual on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, and a host of other characteristics. Now it intends to crack down on broader, non-targeted speech that dehumanizes classes of people for these characteristics.

Here's how the company's blog post describes the new rules: You may not dehumanize anyone based on membership in an identifiable group, as this speech can lead to offline harm.


Dehumanization: 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).

Identifiable group: Any group of people that can be distinguished by their shared characteristics such as their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, serious disease, occupation, political beliefs, location, or social practices.

As a private platform, Twitter can decide that it does not want to make space for speech it finds unacceptable. Newspapers and other media outlets have often declined to run letters to the editor or otherwise provide platforms for speech that uses such "dehumanizing" language. It's their right to do so.

Both Twitter's blog post and Wired's coverage of the rule change point to the research of Susan Benesch of The Dangerous Speech Project as an inspiration for the new rule. Yet while one might think an organization that says certain types of speech are actually dangerous would be pro-censorship, that's not really what the group is about.

While The Dangerous Speech Project does say that "inhibiting" dangerous, dehumanizing speech is one way to prevent the spread of messages meant to encourage violence and hatred toward targeted groups, that's not what the group is actually encouraging. It says outright that efforts to fight "dangerous" speech "must not infringe upon freedom of speech since that is a fundamental right." It adds that "when people are prevented from expressing their grievances, they are less likely to resolve them peacefully and more likely to resort to violence."



Bird of Paradise said...

No words that will make little liberal snowflakes cry or offend them Twitter has gone full liberal on us

Anonymous said...

Will Twitter suspend people who use the term "white privilege" as a slur?