Twitter is well-known as a place where hate speech goes unpunished. You can report a tweet all you want, but as most recipients of derogatory comments will tell you, the offenders regularly slip through the cracks.
Now the company says it will start cracking down more seriously on hate speech, but since it comes in a variety of forms, they have to start somewhere specific. In this case, they’ll start with dehumanizing speech targeting religious people.
These were the examples offered by Twitter as tweets that would get someone banned under the new policy. (If they were made before the policy went into effect, and reported, the tweets would have to be deleted, but the user will not be banned.)
Those tweets are vile and a ban is a fair punishment. But the problem with rules banning hate speech are never with the obvious examples at the extremes. It’s with everything else. Plenty of atheists criticize religious beliefs in a way that many believers would find offensive. At what point would criticism cross the line?
What about images or cartoons that some find blasphemous?
Or sharing videos of hate-preachers saying the kind of awful things in those tweets — not to promote them, but to raise awareness of the bigotry? (YouTube has notoriously punished creators who compiled hate speech in an effort to educate viewers, sometimes allowing the original offenders to go unpunished.)
What about dehumanizing comments by religious groups, against LGBTQ people, that are based on verses in a holy book?
Will Twitter distinguish between hate and sarcasm? What if a hateful tweet is couched in joke-y language? Or there’s a wink emoji afterwards? Those are the questions Twitter needs to grapple with. The egregious examples are obvious. It’s the nuance they’re ignoring. They need to clarify what sort of speech is still allowed.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)