On Tuesday, Twitter announced that they would finally start taking hate speech seriously. Under the direction of Del Harvey and their “Trust and Safety Council,” the media giant sparked another debate about “freedom of speech” in America.
Twitter's track record when it comes to hate speech, however, is shaky at best. It was only under immense public outrage that they removed hate-monger Milo Yiannopoulos and InfoWars’s Alex Jones, who peddled conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook elemntary school shooting, from its platform. Following their high-profile incident with Yiannopoulos, Twitter attempted to save face with a feel-good campaign called #HereWeAre, but failed to make actionable changes since underneath all the pandering, the digital platform was still a hotbed for neo-nazis, misogyny, transphobia, racism, and conspiracy theories.
Twitter’s newest move, updating their policy to ban “dehumanzing speech,” expands on their hateful conduct policy. The move is meant to remove “content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target." This theoretically means referring to people as dogs, scum, and any non-human entity would classify as hate speech, so long as it stems from a malicious stance.
But it should be noted that, like many American companies, Twitter is still hesitant to upset right-wing sympathizers who disguise discriminatory language as opinions or their exercising of the First Amendment. On a surface level, it’s tempting to praise Twitter for their recent move. But in the larger picture, why should we give credit to actions that should be the default?