Twitter launches Violent Speech Policy with zero tolerance for ‘severe cases’

A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown

Twitter announced on Tuesday that it is rolling out a new policy to mitigate violent speech on the platform, which the company said will include zero tolerance for “severe cases.”

The platform’s new “Violent Speech Policy” states that users may not “threaten, incite, glorify or express desire for violence or harm” while using the app. This includes encouraging others to conduct harm and celebrating acts of violence.

The policy also prohibits threats “to damage civilian homes and shelters, or infrastructure that is essential to daily, civic, or business activities.”

“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 new policy reads.

In most cases, Twitter said it will permanently suspend a user’s account for violating this policy, but for “less severe cases,” it may temporarily suspend a user’s account. The policy does not differentiate a “less severe” case from a severe one.

Twitter noted that it does allow “expressions of violent speech when there is no clear abusive or violent context,” such as during sporting events or when discussing video games. It said “hyperbolic and consensual speech between friends” is allowed, as well as “certain cases of figures of speech, satire, or artistic expression” when it expresses a viewpoint instead of promoting violence.

Twitter has rolled out updates to its hateful speech policy numerous times over the past few years, but this marks the latest update to the safety policy under the leadership of CEO Elon Musk, who has previously declared himself as a “free-speech absolutist.”

Twitter had updated its safety policy in 2018 to ban speech that “dehumanize[s] anyone based on membership in an identifiable group, as this speech can lead to offline harm.” In 2019, the company announced an expansion of its harmful conduct policy to state “we prohibit language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion, caste, age, disability, disease, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

During the 2020 election and the subsequent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, Twitter also took steps to block users from inciting violence on the platform.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.