Twitter’s new “violent speech” policy similar to previous rules

Twitter on Wednesday unveiled a new policy banning “violent speech” on its platform, though the rules look very similar to the guidelines against violent threats the company had on its books before Elon Musk took over.

Among the updates, Twitter expanded its policy to include a ban on “coded language,” often referred to as “dog whistles,” used to indirectly incite violence. It also added a rule prohibiting “threatened damage to civilian homes and shelters or infrastructure essential to daily, civic or business activities.”

The additions come as San Francisco-based Twitter prepares to comply with new European Union rules that take effect this fall. The new rules, called the Digital Services Act, require tech companies to better police their platforms for material that, for example, promotes terrorism, child sexual abuse, hate speech and commercial fraud.

Twitter’s new violent speech policy states that “healthy conversations cannot thrive when violent speech is used to deliver a message. As a result, we have a zero-tolerance policy for violent speech in order to ensure the safety of our users and prevent the normalization of violent actions.”

But Twitter already had a version of that rule on the books in October 2021, a year before Musk bought the company for $44 billion, according to a snapshot of its site rules at the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The old rule said Twitter has a “zero-tolerance policy against violent threats. Those deemed to be sharing violent threats will face immediate and permanent account suspension.”

Twitter also tweaked and revamped the policies, though some changes seemed purely cosmetic. For example, the prohibition against violent threats and wishing harm to an individual or group of individuals was previously in a section called “Abusive Conduct” and is now in a new section called “Violent Speech Policy.”

The company is on the books with a policy that prohibits “targeted transgender shaming or non-naming of transgender people,” which some transgender advocates had worried would be repealed.

Of course, policies are only as good as their enforcement. Having lost the majority of its workforce through mass layoffs, layoffs and resignations, it’s unclear whether Twitter will be able to keep its users on board with its new — and old — policies. The system was far from perfect at first, especially in countries outside the US and EU

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