Twitter will now delete tweets that “dehumanise” people on the basis of age, disability or disease. So Twitter will remove a tweet which says “people with [disease] are rats that contaminate everyone around them”. The last category is crucial in the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, where certain age groups might potentially be targeted. Twitter defines dehumanisation as “language that treats others as less than human”; this is when people are denied human qualities (animalistic dehumanisation) or when others are denied of their human nature (mechanistic dehumanisation). Examples can include comparing groups to animals and viruses (animalistic), or reducing groups to a tool for some other purpose (mechanistic).

Following the updated rules, Twitter will not allow the promotion of violence, incitement of harm, and use of hateful imagery and display names against these groups. Such tweets will be deleted when they are reported:

Tweets that violate the policy sent before March 5 “will need to be deleted”, but will not directly result in any account suspensions because they were tweeted before the rule was in place. Twitter hinted that more groups might be added to the policy in the future.

This development comes after social media companies in India recently came under fire for not taking down content related to the Delhi riots. Twitter in particular, was singled out for its low compliance rate with takedown requests from the government. This, despite the platform banning the use of hateful language against religious groups to its policy in July last year.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) is currently working on intermediary liability rules, which in its current draft require social media platforms to prohibit certain types of user generated content, apart from also proactively monitoring the platform for such content. The current draft rules also force them to trace originators of messages, something WhatsApp has pushed back against.