Twitter is trying to do away with a huge part of its platform: dehumanizing language. Unfortunately, the company isn’t planning to burn the whole thing to the ground and start over. Instead, it’s hoping that a new policy may lessen the abusive rhetoric proliferating on timelines everywhere.
“Language that makes someone less than human can have repercussions off the service, including normalizing serious violence,” the company asserts in a blog post, written by two women. “Some of this content falls within our hateful conduct policy...but there are still Tweets many people consider to be abusive, even when they do not break our rules.”
What this new policy aims to do is fill the gaps left by its hateful conduct policy—one that has allowed alt-right groups and dangerous conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones to thrive (until recently) despite their harmful speech.
The proposed policy reads as the following: You may not dehumanize anyone based on membership in an identifiable group, as this speech can lead to offline harm.
“With this change, we want to expand our hateful conduct policy to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target,” the post reads.
On its face, the policy sounds radically good. It would ban any language that compares people to animals, such as Roseanne’s horrific tweet about Valerie Jarrett or other racist language aimed at people of color. It would also ban language reducing people to to genitalia, which means, at least in theory, that you can’t tweet about Donald Trump being a dick.
This policy still isn’t final. The company is asking users for their input to refine it with a survey that will be up for two weeks. The results will help shape the policy before it goes into effect later this year. Will it work? Well, with Brett Kavanaugh and Bill Cosby making headlines this week, it's hard to imagine Twitter could scrub the societal dehumanization of women and minorities with a single policy, but hey, it’s worth a shot.