Trump tweets calling Baltimore district 'infested' violate social media platform rules

Darren Richman
Sunday 28 July 2019 09:00
news
(Rex Features)

Twitter has about as much luck enforcing the rules as the average WWE (née WWF) referee.

Every so often, the big bods will put out a statement suggesting things are different now and it’s no longer as lawless as the average night in Deadwood. Naturally, as a result of such promises, absolutely nothing changes.

Donald Trump has a habit of using the word “infested” when it comes to places inhabited by people of colour. His most recent attack came against congressman Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chair of the House oversight committee, referring to the black politician as a "brutal bully" and condemning his congressional district, which covers parts of Baltimore and neighbouring counties, as "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" and "the worst and most dangerous district anywhere in the United States".

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, it is notable that propaganda from Nazi Germany had a habit of depicting undesirables in the guise of vermin.

As recently as 2018, Twitter outlined a new policy against dehumanising language, stating: “You may not dehumanise anyone based on membership in an identifiable group, as this speech can lead to offline harm.”

Here’s how the company went about defining such a thing:

Dehumanisation: Language that treats others as less than human. Dehumanisation can occur when others are denied of 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).

Identifiable group: Any group of people that can be distinguished by their shared characteristics such as their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, serious disease, occupation, political beliefs, location, or social practices.

By the letter of the law, the president’s tweets are undeniably in contravention of the rules. It’s time for Twitter to decide if they want to do any more than simply talk about banning those who misuse their platform.

More: Trump supporters ask if the dictionary should be banned because it contains racist words

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