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Twitter considers ban on 'dehumanizing language'

Image: Twitter
Men are silhouetted against a video screen with a Twitter logo. Copyright Dado Ruvic Reuters file
Copyright Dado Ruvic Reuters file
By Didi Martinez with NBC News U.S. News
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The move has been in the works for the last three months and is part of the company's efforts to create "healthy" conversations on the platform.


Twitter is working on a policy to prohibit the use of "dehumanizing language," a move that would be the most recent in a series of steps the company has taken to crack down on harassment and hate speech.

The company announced its intentions in a blog post Tuesday, noting that the change will include remarks made to "identifiable groups," not just individual targets. The ban, however, will not go into effect until early next year in order to give the company time to tweak the policy based on user input, according to company spokesperson Raki Wane.

"Language that makes someone less than human can have repercussions off the service, including normalizing serious violence," wrote Del Harvey, Twitter's vice president of trust and safety, and Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy and trust and safety lead.

The move, according to the post, has been in the works for the last three months and is part of the company's efforts to create "healthy" conversations on the platform.

"You may not dehumanize anyone based on membership in an identifiable group, as this speech can lead to offline harm," read the company's proposed policy change.

According to Harvey and Gadde, the change will ban "animalistic" and "mechanistic" dehumanization, which will make it against the rules to deny anyone's human nature or qualities.

Shortly after the post came out, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey tweeted out a link to a survey asking for public input on the proposed change.

"We're experimenting with a new way to write and roll-out policy and rules. Let us know what you think…" Dorsey wrote.

Twitter's announcement follows mounting public pressure to crack down on harassment and abusive behavior online.

The social platform made headlines earlier this month bypermanently banning the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his media company Infowars following a slew past violations, including insulting a CNN reporter's appearance and encouraging followers to get their "battle rifles" ready against the media.

The survey will be live until Oct. 9 and includes questions on how the wording of the proposed policy could be improved to reflect user realities online. Responses will be used in updating the platform's official rules later this year, according to the post.

Some Twitter users remained skeptical of whether the change will make much of a difference.

"This is good, but will also be hard to police," tweeted tech and social media expert Lance Ulanoff.

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