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Twitter bans content that ‘dehumanizes’ based on race, national origin

New policy from social media giant would ostensibly root out anti-Semitic tropes, anti-Israel generalizations

Twitter announced on December 18, 2017, that it will be enforcing stricter policies on violent and abusive content, such as hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user profiles. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Twitter announced on December 18, 2017, that it will be enforcing stricter policies on violent and abusive content, such as hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user profiles. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Twitter said Wednesday it was expanding its definition of hateful content to ban language that “dehumanizes” people on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.

The new policy would apparently ban anti-Semitic and some anti-Israeli comments from the platform.

In a blog post, the social media giant’s safety team wrote: “In July 2019, we expanded our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion or caste. In March 2020, we expanded the rule to include language that dehumanizes on the basis of age, disability, or disease. Today, we are further expanding our hateful conduct policy to prohibit language that dehumanizes people on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Twitter said it would remove offending tweets when they are reported, and offered examples such as describing a particular ethnic group as “scum” or “leeches.”

Illustrative: An image of an anti-Semitic tweet directed at Rabbi Marvin Hier on January 20, 2017. (Screenshot: Twitter)

“If an account repeatedly breaks the Twitter rules, we may temporarily lock or suspend the account,” the company said.

Twitter and Facebook both stepped up enforcement of policies against harmful and hateful content during the US election campaign, in many cases limiting the reach of comments by US President Donald Trump.

Twitter said the latest update is based on feedback since it published expanded rules on hateful content in 2019.

“While we encourage people to express themselves freely on Twitter, abuse, harassment and hateful conduct continue to have no place on our service,” the blog post from the Twitter safety team said.

In July, a Twitter official told Israeli lawmakers that tweets in which Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei calls for Israel’s destruction do not violate the company’s rules against hate speech, and indicated that they are considered mere “foreign policy saber-rattling.”

The Iranian supreme leader had also referred to Israel as a “chained dog” belonging to the United States and frequently describes the Jewish state as a “cancerous tumor.”

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