Twitter updates its Violent Speech Policy to ban wishing ill on others... unless it is hyperbolic

Elon Musk with Twitter logo

Twitter has announced its latest update that limits what users may and may not post on the social platform. In the latest version of its Violent Speech Policy, the company now bans not only threats of harm, but also wishes of harm to others.

The policy still prevents users from posting what Twitter describes as "violent threats", "incitement of violence" and "glorification of violence". The update adds that users also "may not wish, hope, or express desire for harm", going on to explain that "this includes (but is not limited to) hoping for others to die, suffer illnesses, tragic incidents, or experience other physically harmful consequences".

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Introducing the updated policy, Twitter says: "Twitter is a place where people can express themselves, learn about what's happening, and debate global issues. However, 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".

The company breaks down policy violations into four categories:

Violent Threats

You may not threaten to inflict physical harm on others, which includes (but is not limited to) threatening to kill, torture, sexually assault, or otherwise hurt someone. This also includes threatening to damage civilian homes and shelters, or infrastructure that is essential to daily, civic, or business activities.

Wishes of Harm

You may not wish, hope, or express desire for harm. This includes (but is not limited to) hoping for others to die, suffer illnesses, tragic incidents, or experience other physically harmful consequences.

Incitement of Violence

You may not incite, promote, or encourage others to commit acts of violence or harm, which includes (but is not limited to) encouraging others to hurt themselves or inciting others to commit atrocity crimes including crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide. This also includes using coded language (often referred to as "dog whistles") to indirectly incite violence.

Glorification of Violence

You may not glorify, praise, or celebrate acts of violence where harm occurred, which includes (but is not limited to) expressing gratitude that someone experienced physical harm or praising Violent entities and Perpetrators of Violent Attacks. This also includes glorifying animal abuse or cruelty.

Twitter says that violation will, in most cases, result in immediate and permanent account suspension. The company says less severe violations will result in temporary account lockdowns, and points out that there is an appeals process available.

Clearly aware that the new version of the policy may sound overly dictatorial in its censorship, Twitter points out that there are permissible exceptions to the rules

We allow expressions of violent speech when there is no clear abusive or violent context, such as (but not limited to) hyperbolic and consensual speech between friends, or during discussion of video games and sporting events. 

We also allow certain cases of figures of speech, satire, or artistic expression when the context is expressing a viewpoint rather than instigating actionable violence or harm. 

We make sure to evaluate and understand the context behind the conversation before taking action.

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