Twitter’s new initiative to clamp down on hate speech and abuse could have detrimental consequences on free speech. Twitter should not ignore blatant acts of harassment that would not be tolerated in open society. However, Twitter’s inconsistency in what they recognize as harassment could cause major problems.
For example, in 2016, Twitter banned outspoken conservative Milo Yiannaopoulos stating that he was harassing Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones. These were the tweets he was banned for:
Twitter subsequently banned him from twitter for “repeated violation of Twitter rules, specifically our rules prohibiting participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals.” If twitter gave him multiple chances, and he continued to break the rules, his banning is justified. However, Leslie Jones made some “racist” remarks and promoted harassment of a user online, so why was she not temporarily banned?
Additionally, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, a Buzzfeed writer, Scaachi Koul had tweets that someone might find sexist and racist:
However, she was not banned. The consensus is that Twitter will not ban someone that identifies as a Liberal or on the left. Although there is little evidence supporting this consensus, one cannot be faulted for thinking this way.
Twitter is a public domain for people to express their thoughts and beliefs, regardless of how offensive they may be. Banning people, or groups, that are offensive only galvanizes them more. We want people to be open and accepting of different opinions, yet we are closed and dismissive of people that have different opinions.
In my opinion, Twitter has to have a clearer outline of what they see as hate speech and abuse, or it will continue to seem that they are feeding towards a particular political side.