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Twitter expands hate speech rules to include race, ethnicity

A Twitter spokeswoman said the company had planned from the start to add new categories to the policy over time after testing to ensure it can consistently enforce updated rules.

FILE PHOTO: People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo (REUTERS)

Twitter Inc on Wednesday expanded its policy barring hateful speech to include "language that dehumanizes people on the basis of race, ethnicity and national origin," it said in a statement.

The company banned speech that dehumanizes others based on religion or caste last year and updated the rule in March to add age, disability and disease to the list of protected categories.

Civil rights group Color of Change, part of a coalition of advocacy organizations that have been pushing tech companies to reduce hate speech online, called the changes "essential concessions" following years of outside pressure.

A Twitter spokeswoman said the company had planned from the start to add new categories to the policy over time after testing to ensure it can consistently enforce updated rules.

In a statement, Color Of Change Vice President Arisha Hatch criticized Twitter for failing to update the policy before November's presidential election, despite repeated warnings by the advocacy groups about violent and dehumanizing speech.

Hatch also said Twitter has declined to provide transparency into how its content moderators are trained and the efficacy of its artificial intelligence in identifying content that violates the policy.

"The jury is still out for a company with a spotty track record of policy implementation and enforcing its rules with far-right extremist users," she said.

"Void of hard evidence the company will follow through, this announcement will fall into a growing category of too little, too late PR stunt offerings."

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