The Mercury News

Twitter's new policy doesn't veer far from past

- By Barbara Ortutay

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

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

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

Twitter's new violent-speech policy states that “healthy conversati­ons can't thrive when violent speech is used to deliver a message. As a result, we have a zero tolerance policy towards 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 this 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 on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The old rule stated that Twitter has a “zero tolerance policy against violent threats. Those deemed to be sharing violent threats will face immediate and permanent suspension of their account.”

Twitter also edited and reshuffled policies, though some changes appeared purely cosmetic. For instance, the prohibitio­n of violent threats and wishing harm on a person or a group of people was previously in a section called “Abusive behavior” and now it is in a new section called “Violent Speech Policy.”

The company kept on is books a policy prohibitin­g the “targeted misgenderi­ng or dead-naming of transgende­r individual­s,” which some transgende­r advocates had worried would be removed.

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