I work in social media and online marketing. I’m an enthusiast personally for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and a proponent professionally. I believe in the power that social channels hold for businesses wanting to reach new customers and I’m excited by the possibilities that this new form of communication holds.
Because of what I do, I also believe I need to be critical and offer an editorial position when the circumstances call for it.
For some time I’ve been concerned about censorship on social media, and the stances that some companies are taking. Specifically, I believe there is an inconsistent application of Twitter’s policies. The company seems to be censoring content based on some undisclosed criteria and not the company’s rules.
The Twitter Rules
Social channels are businesses. They reserve the right to censor posts and this is perfectly acceptable. The Twitter Rules state, “there are some limitations on the type of content and behavior that we allow.”
On the rules page under Abusive Behavior, the first bullet point addresses violent threats, direct or indirect: “You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.”
In the next bullet point, the company addresses the subject of harassment:
You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:
- if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
- if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
- if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
- if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.
The third bullet point in this section discusses hateful conduct:
You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.
Clearly, Twitter has made it clear that they will not stand for posts that contain hateful content. This leads me to my first question: Why is ISIS and its followers allowed to have a presence on these sites?
A quick search while writing this article displayed a number of pro-ISIS and anti-American tweets.
This is a bit surprising considering the fact that for the last two years, we’ve heard news reports about ISIS using social media to recruit new members. How are photos and videos that contain messages of hate and promote the deaths of others allowed to exist on this social channel?
ISIS is the largest creator of not just hate-speech but also hate-related actions in the world today. Its entire existence is focused on conquering others and subjugating them. In 2014, after capturing the city of Mosul in Iraq, the terrorist organization told the Christian citizens to convert to Islam, pay a high penalty or die. The fact that they are able to have a presence on Twitter is amazing.
In recent weeks I’ve been disturbed by the social media reaction by some to the recent police shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Kansas City.
After the Baton Rouge slayings, Twitter allowed hate-filled posts that supported the killings. Fox News reports that posts such as “Armed pigs meet political consequences in #Baton Rouge” or “No sympathy whatsoever for those pigs.I hope #BatonRouge won’t be the last.” The latter post used an emoji 11 times that showed a face laughing so hard it was crying.
Have these users been banned? No, the accounts where those tweets originated, @Marland_X, and @bvanished, are still active.
Yet Twitter just banned a Breitbart journalist, Milo Yiannopoulos, for his conservative stances. There doesn’t seem to be a logical application of the Twitter Rules.
Twitter has the right to do anything it wants. It’s their site, after all. But if groups get away with breaking the site’s rules by posting blatant, hate-filled messages while other accounts are banned for much less, they need to be ready for the criticism. There doesn’t seem to be a fair application of the Twitter Rules.
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Bob Turner is a Small Business Online Marketing Consultant with Social Flair in Cincinnati, Ohio.