Twitter to Attack Dehumanizing Language

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Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) has become the latest social media company that plans to regulate what it deems negative activity of its users. It will almost certainly crack down on what it calls “dehumanizing language.” First, Twitter will ask for feedback from users, a process that will end October 9. Parts of Twitter’s management will then sort through the responses, but it appears some changes are in the offing.

Twitter management did not say how it would examine billions of tweets that might violate new rules.

In a blog post by Vijaya Gadde, Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety lead, and Del Harvey, vice president of Trust & Safety, Twitter wrote:

For the last three months, we have 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 our 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 our rules. Better addressing this gap is part of our work to serve a healthy public conversation.

The Trust & Safety Council will handle the process and likely will add regulations about the conduct to Twitter rules that all people or organizations that post on Twitter have to follow.

The behavior in question has been carefully described by the company as a means to capture feedback and possibly put new rules in place:

Dehumanization: Language that treats others as less than human. Dehumanization can occur when others are denied of human qualities (animalistic dehumanization) or when others are denied of human nature (mechanistic dehumanization). Examples can include comparing groups to animals and viruses (animalistic), or reducing groups to their genitalia (mechanistic).

If the new rules go into place, a new problem will be how Twitter will apply them to hundreds of millions of users.