Well, in it’s infinite wisdom, Twitter has decided to ban posts from its site that is dehumanizing or insulting to religious groups. I wonder what this actually means? In their blog post concerning the change, Twitter gave a few banal examples of what they may consider dehumanizing speech toward a religion. But to me, most of those, although they may be insulting to some, were nothing more than criticisms. According to this New York Times article, upon implementation, they had already removed a tweet by Minister Louis Farrakhan comparing Jews to termites. Okay, I can see how that is considered dehumanizing but I wonder how far the company will go to protect their users?
I am of course, dubious of this change and of course in the NYT article linked above, it’s just the beginning as a way to expand to other protected categories of people, something yet undefined.
“While we have started with religion, our intention has always been and continues to be an expansion to all protected categories,” Jerrel Peterson, Twitter’s head of safety policy, said in an interview. “We just want to be methodical”.
As long as the policy is applied equally to all then there should be no issue with any of this but as we all are aware of, this will not be the case. Will for example, White Men be a protected class or will Twitter allow some of their users to dehumanize these? It happens more often than any would expect. Will the LGBTQ community receive special treatment from being insulted over say, feminists? I think that as Twitter expands the rule to other groups, it is going to be walking a very fine line.
We read about Meghan Murphy, who was banned a few months ago for stating a scientific fact: men cannot be women and women cannot be men. I also know of a user I have followed for years that was suspended for using the word queer, as in “Isn’t that queer?” meaning strange or different, having nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation.
As to beginning with religion, which religion(s) will receive preferential treatment over others? For instance, if I were to criticize, legitimately, Islam, would I be more liable to be suspended or banned than if I used a similar insult towards Christianity? Or vice-versa. For instance, if I posted a tweet saying that Christianity is a cult that worships death because they venerate a symbol of execution, the crucifix, would I be banned or suspended for stating what appears to me, and some others, simply as a fact? Or how about if I tweeted that Islam is responsible for most of the acts of terrorism in the modern world, again, indisputable, would that bring down the ban-hammer on my account? I haven’t even mentioned anything about Buddhism, or that great modern-day scam, Scientology.
How far will Twitter go to protect it’s user base from certain conduct that is not directly threatening violence toward any person or group? Having an opinion on a religion, or anything else, as a political or social view, is just that: an opinion. How may it be harmful unless it directs violence toward another? Twitter already has a method for its users to not view content they may find objectionable. In fact, they have two methods: one is to block the user another is to mute them. There. Problem solved. I don’t see content I don’t wish to view, such as Minister Farrakhan, whom I never followed anyway, so only by another using retweeting his content would I ever see it. That would be a rare occurrence.
We’ll just have to wait and see how the new rules are enforced, I guess. I can hope that Twitter will be fair and reasonable and not just start suspending or banning accounts left and right (yes), but based on their history, I don’t think that will happen and all that will occur over time, is that Twitter will drive users away from their platform.