After months of criticism that Twitter’s lax abuse policies have put women at risk and allowed ISIS to flourish online, the social network just updated (and broadened) its formal abuse policy. Now, merely “promoting” violence—just plain old violence, regardless of context or reason—is enough to get your feed axed. But what if you’re the U.S. Air Force?
Per Twitter, the policy’s now reads as follows:
Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post threats of violence against others or promote violence against others.
This replaces language that prohibited only “direct, specific threats of violence against others.”
ISIS isn’t the only military force that advances its agenda using Twitter. Governmental organizations like U.S. Central Command and the Israeli Defense Forces are avid cyber-propagandists. And they’re not just linking to press releases, either: Many western militaries routinely use Twitter and other social media to threaten violence against their enemies or promoting their military campaigns:
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. http://t.co/y88tfveR— U.S. Army (@USArmy) December 21, 2011
Not a specific threat, sure, but a threat. Governmental accounts routinely post quasi-celebratory combat updates:
Or vows to continue a campaign of violence, or begin one if necessary:
We'll continue our mission above, on & below the ground to take out Hamas' terror infrastructure wherever we find it. pic.twitter.com/POtWhvFntq— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2014
If the looming “global reach” of a nuclear arsenal isn’t a threat of violence, what is? Some military tweets even include visuals of human death:
And sometimes violent tweets come from individuals rather than groups:
ISIS is now a threat. Let's get on with destroying them. But make no mistake: arming Syrian rebels will only make it harder to destroy ISIS.— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 18, 2014
We should do what is necessary—using overwhelming force—to take ISIS out before they can carry out terror at home: https://t.co/68I9iIVPU7— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) September 10, 2014
Sure, ISIS is Darth Vader and there’s not a whole lot of moral ambiguity about whether or not we should fight evil. But promoting violence is promoting violence. And what if the target were Iran? Or the United States? “We can’t comment on an individual account or Tweet,” Twitter’s public policy rep Nu Wexler told me via email. “But our rules apply to all accounts—government and nongovernment, verified and unverified—and we have suspended official government accounts before.”