Twitter CEO Promises to Toughen Rules on Hate Speech and Violence

Updated on
  • Jack Dorsey says platform to take ‘more aggressive stance’
  • Changes follow boycott over handling of Weinstein accuser

Twitter Inc. will tighten rules on issues including hate speech amid a boycott over the social-media platform’s handling of actress Rose McGowan’s postings on Harvey Weinstein and criticism of its approach to users who target women with sexual or violent content.

“We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them,” Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said in a tweet. The platform will introduce new rules in the next few weeks on unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups and postings that glorify violence, Dorsey said.

Celebrities including Chrissy Teigen and Mark Ruffalo were among those to join a boycott of the platform Friday after Twitter briefly suspended McGowan’s account this week. McGowan had posted a series of messages related to allegations Weinstein sexually assaulted multiple women and says she was among the victims. Twitter said her account had been temporarily locked because one of her tweets included a private phone number, which violates its terms of service.

Critics have contrasted Twitter’s swift action in suspending McGowan with what they charge has been a more sluggish approach to tackling users who troll others with sexual and violent messages. The platform has also been warned that in silencing any sexual assault victim, others may be discouraged from reporting their experiences.

Progress has been made in efforts to prevent “voices being silenced on Twitter,” which has been a top priority for the company this year, Dorsey said. However, the Friday protest had shown that users believe the company was still not doing enough, he said.

Responding to inquiries about the timing of the new policy, Dorsey said: “Day doesn’t matter. We spoke when we had something to say.” The decision was disclosed late Friday “because we spent the whole day working on it and wanted to announce as soon as we were ready,” he said on Twitter. Dorsey also said the company is reconsidering its verification policies. “Not as high a priority as enforcement, but it’s up there,” he said.

More Scrutiny

Twitter’s approach to policing content has been under more intense scrutiny in recent months. Users have debated the company’s decision not to suspend President Donald Trump after tweets that they argue violate the platform’s terms of service.

The platform is also being questioned over the role it played in Russia’s efforts to meddle in the U.S. election. The House Intelligence Committee is asking officials from Twitter, Facebook Inc., and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to testify publicly as part of its Russia probe on Nov. 1., the same date as a planned Senate Intelligence hearing on the topic. The Senate panel’s top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, said this month social media companies didn’t initially take the threat of Russian interference seriously enough.

Twitter’s existing policies include rules that users may not incite the targeted abuse of others, promote violence or publish other people’s private and confidential information.

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