Twitter Plans to Draft a Policy on “Dehumanizing Speech” Ban (s)

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It’s no secret that Twitter is struggling with the issue of who to ban and who not to ban from its platform, as exemplified by the controversy over its initial decision not to ban conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his conspiracy-theory website InfoWars from posting content on the platform.  That decision was later followed by a seven day ban on Jones and Infowars.

Twitter is in a quandary again

After the company announced its decision not to ban Jones and to to permit him to remain on its site, it became the target of censure and intense backlash.

The New York Times recently visited the company headquarters in San Francisco and found that the social network was struggling with the complexity of the issues involved.

The report by the New York Times noted that Jack Dorsey, the CEO and founder of Twitter, was pacing back and forth in a conference room while discussing ways to make the social network safer for its users. The meeting had 18 people, including the safety team, and they discussed ways to remove “dehumanizing” speech from the platform. A member of this team said during the meeting that this matter was complex.

Even defining dehumanizing speech was not an easy task. Dorsey and his executives agreed to draft a policy about dehumanizing speech at the end of the meeting and they said they would open the policy to the public for any comments.

Twitter’s CEO is okay with people not agreeing

Dorsey said during an interview that he was okay with people not agreeing with the company’s decision to keep Jones’ account live on the platform. He said that he does not see this as an end point and sees this as maintaining integrity with what “we put out there and not doing random one-off interpretations.”

Dorsey said that he was listening to audiobooks on speech and expression and was thinking deeply about human rights law. Mr. Dorsey is aiming for transparency inside the company and he has been motivating employees to post about their opinions regarding Mr. Jones publicly. Dorsey even appeared on a radio show with Sean Hannity – a conservative media personality – in order to refute claims that the social media platform is biased against conservatives.

Del Harvey, VP of Twitter Trust & Safety, wrote, in an email to company employees, that the social network would accelerate its efforts and adjust its policies to fight speech that dehumanizes the users. She noted that dehumanization was frequently a precursor to violence, which is why it is a top priority for the company.

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