In perhaps the most intrusive move of social media platforms' efforts signal as much virtue as possible and appease their potentially-regulating government overlords, Twitter has announced that it is cracking down on what it defines at hate-speech and not just by looking at its own site.
In what amounts to a major shift in Twitter policy, Mashable's Kerry Flynn reports that the company announced on Friday that it will be monitoring user's behavior "on and off the platform" and will suspend a user's account if they affiliate with violent organizations, according to an update to Twitter's Help Center on Friday.
We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up. In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.
Context matters when evaluating for abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions. Factors we may take into consideration include, but are not limited to whether:
- the behavior is targeted at an individual or group of people;
- the report has been filed by the target of the abuse or a bystander;
- the behavior is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.
Violence: You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people. This includes, but is not limited to, threatening or promoting terrorism.
You also may not affiliate with organizations that - whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform - use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.
Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.
Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.
Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category.
Furthermore, Twitter says it will control the stream of information more broadly...
At times, we may prevent certain content from trending.
As Kerry Flynn notes, these changes comes amid aggressive moves by Twitter to curb abuse and harassment on the site after more than a decade of essentially letting the abusers operate freely.
Over the last week, Twitter has taken action against the accounts of white supremacists. Twitter permanently banned Tim "Treadstone" Gionet, a prominent alt-right troll more widely known as Baked Alaska, earlier this week. It also removed the verification badges of Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the racist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and of alt-right activist Richard Spencer.
Twitter's decision to monitor users off site sparked concern from free speech advocates such as Andrew Torba, founder of social network Gab.
"This is a scary precedent to set," he wrote in an email to Mashable.
"Rules like this will only force dissidents and those who are speaking truth to power to silence themselves or risk being silenced by Twitter."
Twitter's new rules will not be enforced until December 18th...
We’ve updated our rules around abuse and hateful conduct as well as violence and physical harm. These changes will be enforced starting December 18. Read our updated rules here: https://t.co/NGVT3qGFvg
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) November 17, 2017
And of course, "if you're doing nothing wrong, then why would this be an issue for you" will be instant reposte of those defending yet more intrusion within America's surveillance state.