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Twitter’s new rules ban violent speech (but not for governments)

In late December, Twitter updated and began enforcing its new anti-violence rules:

“You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people. This includes, but is not limited to, threatening or promoting terrorism. You also may not affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.”

Aside from the curious use of the word “civilian” rather than, you know, person, it seems quite standard and despite this not being up for a vote or consensus, but a mere diktat from the top, it seems hard to argue against when it comes to creating a positive space.

Personally, I’m generally a pacifist, and pre-emptive violence and calls for it make me queasy, no matter what the cause is. Self defence is another matter and the lines aren’t clear, but violence against the person is something we should resist until it’s a clear last resort. So you’d think that I’d be happy about such rules. While I have strong reservations about the method this was put into place, the rules seem ok. Except for one huge thing:

“This policy does not apply to military or government entities.”

Oh.

Has it ever been this clear that the state hates human life with a passion? In a ruling designed to combat hate speech and terrorism, they had to add a clause to exempt governments.

The implicit message ?

Twitter has stated that governments can make specific threats of violence and cause harm, death or disease of other individuals on it’s platform.

The entities with the largest ability to cause traumatic violence in the world are allowed to continue to promote and be promoted. Twitter could have chosen not to add the clause and then faced accusations of double standards when they didn’t delete US government hawks calling for war, but instead they chose to add it and thus face similar calls of hypocrisy albeit allowing them to claim they are merely working within the rules (that they wrote).

So if governments and military can make threats, welcome to a twittersphere where,

The Nazi party of the 1930/1940s can safely promote their attempted genocide of Jewish people

The US/UK coalition can advocate going to war in Iraq

War Crimes? that’s fine. tweet away.

People can cheer on famine caused by war.

Rather than make twitter a place free from violence, twitter have done quite the opposite, they have legitimized violence and created a safe space for those who wish to cheer on the destruction of human bodies by people with flags on their uniforms.

Another part of the new policy is equally problematic:

“Exceptions will be considered for groups that have reformed or are currently engaging in a peaceful resolution process, as well as groups with representatives elected to public office through democratic elections.”

This seems to assume that if a country has “democratic elections” (and this of course means western-style representative democracy, not anything else) then it is a benevolent force for good and any dissent must either sign up or face the consequences. How would this play in Myanmar, for example, where the “democratic state” is controlled by an majority ethnic group who for decades have fought bloody wars with more marginalized groups? or how about the Kurds who fought ISIS in Rojava? This policy would allow one side to have their say but not another.

Twitter’s anti-violence policy has contributed to the ongoing normalization of state violence, a centuries-in-the-making project. Rarely has it ever been so blatant.

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