Twitter’s new “Violent speech policy” now has an ominous ban against “wishes of harm” on the platform.
Twitter frequently updates its platform policies, particularly since Elon Musk took over. But this new update could be detrimental to free speech. The “Violent speech policy” did not appear in Twitter’s policies until the last month, based on the Wayback Machine, which did not show the update until after a Feb. 1, 2023 archive (the archive doesn’t show it). The new policy does appear to be an updated version of Twitter’s previous Violent Threats Policy and Glorification of violence policy.
“You may not threaten, incite, glorify, or express desire for violence or harm,” Twitter’s new Violent speech policy reads. The new policy adds that Twitter has “a zero tolerance policy towards violent speech in order to ensure the safety of our users and prevent the normalization of violent actions.”
Twitter gets more specific, noting that it bans “Violent Threats,” “Wishes of Harm,” “Incitement of Violence,” and “Glorification of Violence.” The platform describes what it characterizes as “Wishes of Harm.” “You may not wish, hope, or express desire for harm. This includes (but is not limited to) hoping for others to die, suffer illnesses, tragic incidents, or experience other physically harmful consequences,” the policy states. One example of speech that could be mistakenly censored under this policy was when CNSNews.com Managing Editor Michael Chapman tweeted that, rather than watch Biden’s State of the Union Address, Americans would prefer to “Eat pieces of broken glass.”
“One of the biggest problems with blanket censorship policies — censorship policies on the whole really — are the subjective nature of their enforcement,” noted MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “Take the popular satire site The Babylon Bee for example. Will The Babylon Bee be able to quote Monty Python to poke fun at government leaders like Senator Hirono? Facebook certainly didn’t allow it. Will Twitter?”
This issue with this Twitter policy is that it can very easily be misapplied. “Violent speech” is already more vague than “violent threats.” Individuals have been censored before for stating facts about biology that LGBTQ-identifying users somehow interpreted as “violence.” The Babylon Bee and Dr. Jordan Peterson have both fallen victim to such censorship on Twitter.
The new Twitter policy also appears similar to the language in the UK Online Safety Bill, which aimed in late 2021 to criminalize trolls for “likely psychological harm.” Whenever intention, wishes, or “likely” psychological harm come into play, the problem is that those measures are entirely subjective. Anything now can be labeled violence or “harm” by leftists, and anyone can be accused of inflicting some sort of emotional upset.
Elon Musk’s Twitter should be wary of being too vague or subjective in its policies, as missteps could seriously damage Twitter’s recent pro-free speech trend.
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