Twitter plans to streamline its hate-speech rules to ban posts that compare religious groups to dehumanising terms like ‘rats’ and ‘maggots’.
However, a public consultation has revealed that Twitter users want to use the language in question when criticising hate groups and political organisations.
As a result, tech giants are struggling to respect their user’s freedom of expression while also ensuring other users are not subject to abuse on the social media platform. Twitter have outlined that it has taken several months to finalise the policy.
In a recent blog post the company stated: “Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm – and research shows that dehumanising language increases that risk.”
Twitter’s hateful conduct policy prevents users from disseminating racist comments about religious groups like referring to all individuals as terrorists.
The policy also prohibits the use of imagery that could breed online hatred, including images that have been photoshopped to give people animal-like features or discriminatory symbols like the Holocaust yellow star of David badges.
Matthew McGregor, Hope Not Hate’s campaigns director, feels the tech giant’s move is too little too late.
“Twitter’s known that it’s had a problem with people using hate speech to target, harass and abuse people on the basis of their religious background for a long time,” he said.
“So, it’s been incredibly disappointing to see Twitter drag its feet over this. At the same time, their move today is welcome. But I think a lot of campaigners will want to see the extent to which this policy is implemented.”
In addition, Twitter said it would continue to respond to user reports and utilising machine-learning tools to automatically identify posts to be reviewed by human moderators. Consequently, offenders could have their account suspended.
Twitter had previously made an exception for world leaders and politicians who breached its policies; however, the social media giant recently said it would conceal these tweets behind a warning notifying users.
Instagram has also attempted to discourage online bullying by asking users whether they want to post abusive messages.
But Twitter and Instagram’s new moves have been criticised by free speech advocates who have suggested social media platforms use smaller, less-regulated alternatives like Gab and Bitchute instead.
On Thursday, the White House will host a social media summit in order to have a “robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment”. Conservative organisations and individuals are reported to be attending the summit.
President Trump recently stated that Twitter should be sued as a result of its restrictive policies, which he claims favour his Democratic rivals. In response, the social network has stated that its sole focus is to foster a “healthier service” on its platform.
A spokeswoman for Twitter declined to comment whether it will be attending the meeting taking place in Washington DC. However, Facebook has confirmed it has not been invited to the summit.
Furthermore, a US appeals court ruled that President Trump cannot block people from following him on Twitter following the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals’ 3-0 decision to uphold an earlier ruling from a lower court.
The case related to a 2017 lawsuit that was filed when seven people sued the President for blocking them from viewing and replying to his tweets. Subsequently, the appeals court has started that this was a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech.
The Justice Department had previously described the President’s actions as “fundamentally misconceived” as he used Twitter in a personal capacity.
However the White House has not responded to the latest ruling.