Our approach to policy development and enforcement philosophy
Twitter is reflective of real conversations happening in the world and that sometimes includes perspectives that may be offensive, controversial, and/or bigoted to others. While we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we will not tolerate behavior that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others.
Our policy development process
Creating a new policy or making a policy change requires in-depth research around trends in online behavior, developing clear external language that sets expectations around what’s allowed, and creating enforcement guidance for reviewers that can be scaled across millions of Tweets.
While drafting policy language, we gather feedback from a variety of internal teams as well as our Trust & Safety Council. This is vital to ensure we are considering global perspectives around the changing nature of online speech, including how our rules are applied and interpreted in different cultural and social contexts. Finally, we train our global review teams, update the Twitter Rules, and start enforcing the new policy.
Our enforcement philosophy
We empower people to understand different sides of an issue and encourage dissenting opinions and viewpoints to be discussed openly. This approach allows many forms of speech to exist on our platform and, in particular, promotes counterspeech: speech that presents facts to correct misstatements or misperceptions, points out hypocrisy or contradictions, warns of offline or online consequences, denounces hateful or dangerous speech, or helps change minds and disarm.
Thus, context matters. When determining whether to take enforcement action, we may consider a number of factors, including (but not limited to) whether:
- the behavior is directed at an individual, group, or protected category of people;
- the report has been filed by the target of the abuse or a bystander;
- the user has a history of violating our policies;
- the severity of the violation;
- the content may be a topic of legitimate public interest.
Is the behavior directed at an individual or group of people?
To strike a balance between allowing different opinions to be expressed on the platform, and protecting our users, we enforce policies when someone reports abusive behavior that targets a specific person or group of people. This targeting can happen in a number of ways (for example, @mentions, tagging a photo, mentioning them by name, and more).
Has the report been filed by the target of the potential abuse or a bystander?
Some Tweets may seem to be abusive when viewed in isolation, but may not be when viewed in the context of a larger conversation or historical relationship between people on the platform. For example, friendly banter between friends could appear offensive to bystanders, and certain remarks that are acceptable in one culture or country may not be acceptable in another. To help prevent our teams from making a mistake and removing consensual interactions, in certain scenarios we require a report from the actual target (or their authorized representative) prior to taking any enforcement action.
Does the user have a history of violating our policies?
We start from a position of assuming that people do not intend to violate our Rules. Unless a violation is so egregious that we must immediately suspend an account, we first try to educate people about our Rules and give them a chance to correct their behavior. We show the violator the offending Tweet(s), explain which Rule was broken, and require them to delete the content before they can Tweet again. If someone repeatedly violates our Rules then our enforcement actions become stronger. This includes requiring violators to delete the Tweet(s) and taking additional actions like verifying account ownership and/or temporarily limiting their ability to Tweet for a set period of time. If someone continues to violate Rules beyond that point then their account may be permanently suspended.
What is the severity of the violation?
Certain types of behavior may pose serious safety and security risks and/or result in physical, emotional, and financial hardship for the people involved. These egregious violations of the Twitter Rules — such as posting violent threats, non-consensual intimate media, or content that sexually exploits children — result in the immediate and permanent suspension of an account. Other violations could lead to a range of different steps, like requiring someone to delete the offending Tweet(s) and/or temporarily limiting their ability to post new Tweet(s).
Is the behavior newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest?
Twitter moves at the speed of public consciousness and people come to the service to stay informed about what matters. Exposure to different viewpoints can help people learn from one another, become more tolerant, and make decisions about the type of society we want to live in.
To help ensure people have an opportunity to see every side of an issue, there may be the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behavior which may otherwise violate our Rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability. Each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis and ultimately decided upon by a cross-functional team.
Some of the factors that help inform our decision-making about content are the impact it may have on the public, the source of the content, and the availability of alternative coverage of an event.
Public impact of the content: A topic of legitimate public interest is different from a topic in which the public may be curious. We will consider what the impact is to citizens if they do not know about this content. If the Tweet does have the potential to impact the lives of large numbers of people, the running of a country, and/or it speaks to an important societal issue then we may allow the the content to remain on the service. Likewise, if the impact on the public is minimal we will most likely remove content in violation of our policies.
Source of the content: Some people, groups, organizations and the content they post on Twitter may be considered a topic of legitimate public interest by virtue of their being in the public consciousness. This does not mean that their Tweets will always remain on the service. Rather, we will consider if there is a legitimate public interest for a particular Tweet to remain up so it can be openly discussed.
Availability of coverage: Everyday people play a crucial role in providing firsthand accounts of what’s happening in the world, counterpoints to establishment views, and, in some cases, exposing the abuse of power by someone in a position of authority. As a situation unfolds, removing access to certain information could inadvertently hide context and/or prevent people from seeing every side of the issue. Thus, before actioning a potentially violating Tweet, we will take into account the role it plays in showing the larger story and whether that content can be found elsewhere.