What many conscientious social media users in India had been demanding for long to feel secure on Twitter, may soon be a reality. With an aim to address dehumanising language on its platform, Twitter is seeking public feedback before framing a policy to check abusive comments that lead to real world violence.
Reaching out to the users for their help in crafting the policy that serves a healthy public conversation, Vijaya Gadde and Del Harvey of the Twitter trust and safety team in a joint blog stated that Twitter has been working its new policy for the past three months.
Defining “dehumanisation”, the blog read: “Language that treats others as less than human. Dehumanisation can occur when others are denied of human qualities (animalistic dehumanisation) or when others are denied of human nature (mechanistic dehumanisation). Examples can include comparing groups to animals and viruses (animalistic), or reducing groups to their genitalia (mechanistic).”
Maintaining that the language that makes someone less than human can have repercussions off the service, including normalising serious violence, it added, “Some of this content falls within our hateful conduct policy but there are still Tweets many people consider to be abusive, even when they do not break our rules.”
The proposed policy aims at prohibiting “the promotion of violence against or direct attacks or threats against other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
Twitter’s announcement that it will ban ‘dehumanising comments’ will resonate in India, where many people expressing dissent against the Narendra Modi Govt are routinely abused in coordinated attacks by rightwing trolls.
Incidentally, PM Modi has repeatedly been accused of following these hatred- and fear-monging trolls, who dish out misogynistic, communal and casteist abuse to dissenters against the Modi regime. Many users were quick to point out last year that PM Modi had been following the person who called murdered Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh a “bitch who died a dog’s death”.
A detailed report carried by the AltNews entitled ‘Hall of shame—Serial abusers, sexist bigots, rumour mongers followed by PM Modi on Twitter’, last year profiled several hate-mongers on Twitter who claimed to be the “proud nationalists.”
Another report carried by Scoopwhoop entitled “Why Modi Follows Trolls Who Cheered Gauri Lankesh’s Murder? Twitter Users Say #BlockNarendraModi” read: “It is indeed baffling why the Prime Minister of India follows such abusive trolls. As TV journalist Ravish Kumar pointed out: Why does Prime Minister Narendra Modi follow people who are celebrating journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder on social media?”
Reporting the outrage, the New York Times had wondered that “What are the ethics in choosing whom to follow on Twitter? Do influential people — say, a head of state — have a higher responsibility not to follow people who post hateful tweets?”
On World Social Media Day, the women (and a few men) of the Congress social media team had come up with a musical message, urging Prime Minister “Modi Ji” to unfollow trolls. In a musical video, which was posted on Twitter, the party made a “a collective plea” to the PM to unfollow Twitter handles of those who routinely subject those with opposing political ideologies with abuse and threats.