Twitter begins enforcing new anti-hate speech rules

Nick Ansell- PA Images via Getty Images                   Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen

The social network has been ramping up its fight against hateful and "abusive" content.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, commended Twitter "for taking these significant steps to tackle hate on their platform".

Twitter said in a statement it would shut down accounts affiliated with non-government organisations that promote violence against civilians and ban usernames that constitute a violent threat or racial slur.

Though the suspensions sparked outrage among far-right groups, Twitter's move was anything but sudden.

"Social media companies have more to do to prevent harm on their sites", he added.

On hate symbols and imagery, it said: "At a high level, hateful imagery, hate symbols, etc will now be considered sensitive media (similar to how we handle and enforce adult content and graphic violence)". No such symbols or imagery will be allowed on people's profiles. The company went on to explain that its new policy includes any abusive language in the profile information of an account (in addition to applying to language used in tweets).

Hate imagery will now fall under the rubric of Twitter's "sensitive media policy", and that will include any "logos, symbols, or images whose goal is to promote hostility and malice against others based on their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin".

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The company said that it will be creating tools that will assist in identifying defaulters.

Fransen and Golding were one of several far-right and white supremacist accounts suspended by Twitter this week, which appeared to come as a result of platform's updated policy.

Just weeks ago, United States president Donald Trump re-tweeted anti-Islam hate messages from Britain First deputy leader Fransen - who is on bail facing trial over four unrelated charges of causing religiously aggravated harassment.

In October, Twitter vowed to toughen rules on online sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of misconduct. She called Britain First a "hateful organization" and that it was "very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do".

"This policy does not apply to military or government entities and we will consider exceptions for groups that are now engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution".

So long as governmental forces are "currently engaging in (or have in engaged in)" peace-making efforts, Twitter said, violent tweets, messaging and other incidents will not be held to the same standard as individuals espousing similarly violent rhetoric.

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