Twitter changes its policy on violent posts

Can terrorists really go dark?

Twitter is taking steps to identify people who tweet hateful and violent speech and kick them off the social network.

It did not specifically name the attacks in Paris and San Bernadino in its post, but the statement comes amid growing outrage that terrorists use social media to post hate speech and recruit.

In a blog post Tuesday, Twitter said it has updated its policy in an attempt to stop people from tweeting abusive and violent posts.

"The updated language emphasizes that Twitter will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user's voice," said Megan Cristina, Twitter's trust and safety director said in its blog post. "As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs -- but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse."

Twitter's new policy gives the social network a more explicit ability to suspend or shut down accounts of people who engage in "hateful conduct" or whose "primary purpose is inciting harm towards others." In the past, Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) said it banned the promotion of violence and terrorism, but it did not say people who tweeted hateful things could be banned from the network.

The social network updated its "hateful conduct" policy, banning attacks or threats to attack people "on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease."

Another update bans people from using multiple accounts for the sole purpose of avoiding suspension. That's a tactic terrorists have used to stay online, even if Twitter suspends one of their accounts.

Twitter, Facebook (FB, Tech30) and other social networks have faced criticism for failing to stop terrorists from using their channels to communicate.

In response, the social networks have adjusted their policies several times over the past year in an effort to clamp down on hate speech and the promotion of terrorism. But they also want to avoid censorship.

It's a fine line that's virtually impossible to tread in a way that satisfies everyone.

"Keeping users safe requires a comprehensive and balanced approach where everyone plays a role," Cristina said. "We will continue to build on these initiatives to empower our users and ensure that Twitter remains a platform for people to express themselves."

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