Twitter’s new rules regulate sexual abuse, hate, and violence.

Twitter Is Rolling Out Stricter Rules on Sexual Abuse, Violence, and Hate Speech

Twitter Is Rolling Out Stricter Rules on Sexual Abuse, Violence, and Hate Speech

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 18 2017 12:29 PM

Twitter Is Rolling Out Stricter Rules on Sexual Abuse, Violence, and Hate Speech

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Friday that Twitter would be implementing new rules.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

We now have some specifics on the new rules that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey promised on Friday to curb abuse, harassment, and hate speech on the social media platform.

Wired obtained an email outlining the new policies that Twitter sent to its Trust and Safety Council, a group of academics and advocates, on Tuesday night. The changes will be implemented in the coming weeks.


A bulk of the revised rules have to do with sexual abuse, particularly concerning users who tweet “non-consensual nudity”—like revenge porn and upskirt pictures. Whereas Twitter previously punished first-time offenders by temporarily restricting their accounts and requiring them to remove the posts, the company will now permanently suspend accounts that engage in such behavior, especially if it’s clear that the user is trying to harass someone. The definition of “non-consensual nudity” is also expanding to “include content like upskirt imagery, ‘creep shots,’ and hidden camera content.”

Twitter is further cracking down on “unwanted sexual advances.” Policing of unsolicited pornography and sexual messages had in the past relied on complaints from victims. Now the platform’s regulators are going to use a “bystander reporting” system, which will in part analyze signals such as blocking and muting to detect this sort of conduct.

The other half of the rules concern violence and hate speech. Though Twitter hasn’t yet come up with a definition of what exactly constitutes hate “imagery” and “symbols,” the site will now treat such content as “sensitive media”—this is the same designation used for adult content, which won’t show up on your timeline unless you enable it.

The company also hasn’t fully defined violent speech, though these policies seem a tad more refined. Groups that “have historically used violence” will start to see more unspecified sanctions. Rather than just prohibiting violent threats, Twitter is also planning on censoring posts that glorify or condone violence in general. (The email offers an example: “Murdering makes sense. That way they won’t be a drain on social services.”)

The updated rules come in the wake of the #WomenBoycottTwitter movement last week, which users launched in response to the company restricting actress Rose McGowan’s account after she spoke out against Harvey Weinstein and the A-listers she says enabled him. Twitter was concerned that a private phone number was visible in a screenshot that McGowan had posted, though the company’s spokespeople acknowledge that they could have handled the situation more transparently.

Boycotters were incensed that Twitter had punished McGowan while failing to apply strict standards to those who spread hate speech. The company’s handling of harassment among users has been a problem for more than 10 years—pretty much the site’s entire existence.

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