Tech Friday: The challenges of policing speech on social media

Posted By on July 12, 2019

Social media communication concept

There are challenges from users and governments facing several of the companies who make money advertising to the millions of eyeballs and the marketing of users personal data. We all want “free services,” but most people dislike the collection and selling of their personal data or having to sift through advertising … especially when it emulates a news or personal feed. BUT … besides the privacy issues associated with high profile social media sites like Facebook and Google, there is the recent mandate that they step-up their game when it comes to what users share on their platforms. Google’s YouTube component has been hammered with what shows up “next” in “kids” feeds to the point the company has moved to create a “playground” if you will of kids safe videos. The plan is that questionable content would not show up on a YouTube stream (good luck with that considering the billions of videos with embedded content – the algorithms better be good). This entire screening has taken on “policing speech” duties for supposedly non-biased employees who write the code to automatically screen and for “people” to make judgmental decisions.

Since I’m primarily only on Twitter, I’ve noticed the pro-active efforts that might be succeeding, but also has created a outrage when screeners without notice or anytwittericonappp arbitration have locked out users (their prerogative I suppose?). To understand the challenge would be to know and notice some of the high profile users who have lost their privileges. It has been heavily skewed towards provocative conservative speech, but for Twitter’s part they claim their evolving rules are protecting people, classes of people and groups from “hateful conduct” (a fairly broad and encompassing term).

Twitter’s recent update focused on dehumanizing speech around religion.”

“After months of conversations and feedback from the public, external experts and our own teams, we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.


Personally, I don’t have an issue with being civil on Twitter …BUT some of the policies and accepted views coming out of Silicon Valley aren’t representative of me or of the rest of the country (let alone everywhere else in the world). When it comes to debating issues like abortion, drugs, illegal immigration, President Trump, gender identity or sexual orientation, the Second Amendment, religious views, etc  – especially when things get heated – more times than not, the policing comes down harder on conservatives expressing their views. The choice of language and images that bothers one “group” doesn’t bother another … and the Twitter values may not be appropriate or be seen as commonsense everywhere in the world.  I understand the objective, just not the implementation I’ve been seeing by the arbitrators when it comes to targeting conservatives in the US.

The Twitter Rules

Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation. Violence, harassment and other similar types of behavior discourage people from expressing themselves, and ultimately diminish the value of global public conversation. Our rules are to ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely.


Violence: You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people. We also prohibit the glorification of violence. Learn more about our violent threat and glorification of violence policies.

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Child sexual exploitation: We have zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation on Twitter. Learn more.

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Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Learn more.

Suicide or self-harm: You may not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm. Learn more.

Sensitive media, including graphic violence and adult content: You may not post media that is excessively gory or share violent or adult content within live video or in profile or header images. Media depicting sexual violence and/or assault is also not permitted. Learn more.

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Non-consensual nudity: You may not post or share intimate photos or videos of someone that were produced or distributed without their consent. Learn more.


Platform manipulation and spam: You may not use Twitter’s services in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter. Learn more.

Election integrity: You may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections. This includes posting or sharing content that may suppress voter turnout or mislead people about when, where, or how to vote. Learn more.

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Note: we may need to change these rules from time to time in order to support our goal of promoting a healthy public conversation. The most current version is always available at


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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