Culture

Twitter will suspend accounts that tweet links to hateful content

The latest salvo in Twitter's interminable battle with hate speech and misinformation.

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Come July 30, linked content to hateful speech on Twitter will receive a warning notice or get blocked entirely, according to a statement the social media company released on Tuesday. It sounds like one of its generic approaches that have yet to yield effective and long-lasting outcomes on the abuse, harassment, and misinformation front, but this time Twitter plans to practice a more specific strategy.

Prior to this, Twitter did not target linked content. This means that if users wanted to share hate speech or other content that violated the platform's speech policy and rules, they often could do so by linking to it without repercussions. Starting at the end of July, that changes.

According to Twitter, it'll keep an eye open for linked content involving malware, phishing campaigns, spam links "that mislead people" as well as malicious links that redirect individuals to unspecified websites, URL shorteners that obscure the actual link, and malicious other content.

Twitter says it will also bolster efforts to remove content related to violent extremism, terrorism, any sort of media depicting child sexual abuse as well as revenge porn (something it tried to remove in 2017 as well). Repeat offenders will see their accounts suspended.

Twitter's perennial conundrum — When it launched, Twitter positioned itself as a free speech platform, open for democratic exchanges of ideas and debates between different schools of thought. It soon became one of its core selling features. But it didn't take long for the paradox of free speech to become not only clear for Twitter but a constant and debilitating headache.

Some critics have argued that Twitter had an idealistic and perhaps naive notion of free speech and failed to seriously weigh the real-life ramifications of unchecked, unfettered content, especially when it comes from anonymous users that are hard to hold accountable. Since then, Twitter has tried to curb its hate speech and misinformation problems through increased moderation systems, quality filters, warnings, notices, and other measures. But it's had mixed success. And it doesn't help that its bread and butter — like every social network— is engagement. This is why accounts like Trump's continue to exist on the platform despite frequent, and flagrant, contraventions of its policies.

Whether or not targeting linked content improves the health of the platform remains to be seen. But what is clear is that Twitter is trying to get more detailed, specific, and keen-eyed with the nature of tweets going up on the network. That's something to be thankful for.