Twitter Speeds Up Push Against ‘Dehumanizing Speech’

August 9th, 2018 12:46 PM

Just a day after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Twitter did not suspend Alex Jones’ account because he has not violated the site’s rules, Twitter indicated that evolving rules might be used against him.

In an email sent to employees, Twitter’s VP of Trust and Safety, Del Harvey, discussed how the site’s new rule against “dehumanizing speech” may result in action against Alex Jones’ account, in light of controversy surrounding Twitter’s decision not to ban his account. Twitter added that it is speeding up the approval of that policy.

In a series of tweets on August 7, Dorsey said Twitter’s reason for not banning Jones was “simple,” as he hadn’t violated any of the site’s rules:

Continuing the thread, Dorsey said that he’ll hold Jones’ account to the same standard as other accounts, rather than “taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.” Dorsey explained that Twitter’s decisions about which accounts they terminate will be determined by the site’s own rules, rather than them succumbing to outside pressure:

Additionally, Dorsey called for journalists to combat Jones’ sensationalism and numerous conspiracy theories, which is in direct contrast to journalists and their calls for banning InfoWars from social media sites, such as Facebook:

In a follow-up tweet, Dorsey instructed people to read about “The Twitter Rules: A Living Document,” written by Harvey.

At the beginning of the document, Harvey stated:

Twitter is reflective of real conversations happening in the world and that sometimes includes perspectives that may be offensive, controversial, and/or bigoted. While we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we prohibit targeted behavior that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others.

Harvey explained, that since Twitter’s rules “evolve continuously to address emerging behaviors online,” sometimes Twitter receives complaints about people who current rules that were not in place at the time of their tweets.

“In those instances, we will generally require the individual to delete the Tweet that violates the new rules but we won’t generally take other enforcement action against them (e.g. suspension). This is reflective of the fact that the Twitter Rules are a living document,” Harvey explained.

The next day, Harvey tweeted about an email she sent to Twitter staff about their policies.

In her email, Harvey called some of Jones’ comments “inflammatory (and reprehensible),” particularly those related to calling the Sandy Hook survivors crisis actors. Harvey stated, at the time of those comments, Twitter’s rules did not include a stipulation in the harassment policy to address that topic.

Harvey noted: “If he were to post similar accusations today, we would have taken action on them; if people report past content of his that includes those types of accusations, we would require him to remove it but would not further penalize him as we work to avoid retroactive applications of our policy.”

Harvey added Twitter is rolling out a new policy on “dehumanizing speech,” which “would impact this type of situation.” According to Harvey, “dehumanizing speech” is “speech that treats or describes others as less than human.” Harvey claims Twitter is focusing on dehumanizing speech because it can allegedly lead to real-world violence.

In addition, Harvey said the site is “evaluating whether we should be doing more to consider off-platform behavior when enforcing our policies.” Twitter already has a policy that results in users losing their verified status for actions they take off the site.