MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The Twitter Rules apply to everyone who uses Twitter. In the past, we’ve created our rules with a rigorous policy development process; it involves in-depth research and partnership with the members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council and other experts to ensure these policies best serve every person on the service. Now, Twitter is trying something new by asking everyone for feedback on a policy before it’s part of the Twitter Rules.
For the last three months, Twitter has been developing a new policy to address dehumanizing language on Twitter. Language that makes someone less than human can have repercussions off the service, including normalizing serious violence. Some of this content falls within Twitter’s hateful conduct policy (which prohibits the promotion of violence against or direct attacks or threats against other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease), but there are still Tweets many people consider to be abusive, even when they do not break the Twitter Rules. Better addressing this gap is part of the company’s work to serve a healthy public conversation.
With this change, Twitter wants to expand the hateful conduct policy to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target. Many scholars have examined the relationship between dehumanization and violence. For example, Susan Benesch has described dehumanizing language as a hallmark of dangerous speech, because it can make violence seem acceptable, and Herbert Kelman has posited that dehumanization can reduce the strength of restraining forces against violence.
“We want users’ feedback to ensure we consider global perspectives and how this policy may impact different communities and cultures. For languages not represented here, our policy team is working closely with local non-governmental organizations and policy makers to ensure their perspectives are captured,” said Vijaya Gadde; Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety lead, Twitter. “This is part of our singular effort to increase the health of the public conversation on our service and we hope this gives people a better understanding of how new rules are created. We want them to be part of this process.”
People will be able to participate in this survey until Tuesday, October 9, at 9:00pm PHT. Once the feedback form has closed, Twitter will continue with the regular process, which passes through a cross-functional working group, including members of our policy development, user research, engineering, and enforcement teams. The company will share some of what they learn when they update the Twitter Rules later this year.