On Monday, Twitter began banning users associated with hateful or threatening groups as part of a revamped conduct policy for the social network. The new rules, which were announced in November, ban accounts that attempt to incite violence against civilians either on or off the platform. Accounts that include violent threats or hateful imagery in their profile pictures or bio information will also be banned.
The new rules have already led to several alt-right leaders and groups losing their accounts, including a leader in a far-right British group who tweeted the anti-Muslim videos that Donald Trump retweeted last month. In the United States, banned users include the American Nazi Party, white nationalist Jared Taylor, and Vanguard America, one of the groups present at the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. “We’re making these changes to create a safer environment for everyone,” the company said in a blog post on Monday.
The move is the culmination of a yearslong transformation of Twitter from an ideological free-for-all to a more tightly controlled platform bound by traditional expectations of social decorum. For years the company has been criticized for failing to combat trolls and other users who threaten verbal and physical abuse against their enemies, often women and people of color. But Twitter’s abuse problem took on added urgency in 2017, as white supremacist groups continued to use the platform to threaten others, and congressional inquiries revealed that Russian operatives had been using the platform to sow discord in the U.S. before the presidential election.
In October, CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that curbing harassment and hate speech on the platform was a “top priority” this year. Shortly after, the company took a harder line against unwanted sexual advances and nude pictures shared without the subject’s permission. But the company continues to struggle to strike the right balance between fostering an environment for free speech and protecting the users most likely to be threatened by others. When the actress Rose McGowan had her account suspended for her tweets about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, some women boycotted Twitter for a day in protest. As the company enforces these new policies, it’s likely more demonstrations are in Twitter’s future.