|The design of legal products
Loving Twitter as the JC does — one of his many standing mottoes is get off Twitter — and given the great world-wide focus on Twitter and the studied outrage of those whose blue-check marks over the weekend became degraded, and since their reposting by the “Chief Twit” today, the JC thought he would take the opportunity to have a look at the Twitter Rules.
As terms of service go, in all honesty, they’re really not bad.
They should be as plain, simple, clear and unambiguous as possible, with as little room for argument, so that anyone — even a bedroom hacker, even the fifteen Russian sex-bots who follow the JC — should know instinctively where they stand and what they must, and must not, do.
As a platform designed for all the world and not just we sainted few of the liberal metropolitan elite, the Twitter Rules should follow common sense.
They should be intuitive enough that you don’t need to read them, and if you do, what you find in them should surprise only those whose grasp of the basic tenets of civil society is so meagre they shouldn’t be allowed their own smartphone in the first place.
And, on that score, Twitter’s rules are not bad.
There is very little legalese — though you can see a few places where it pokes through and the legal eagle in charge of the TOBs just could not help herself — “in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior” has a face only a legal ninja could love — and they do make broad sense.
But in the iatrogenic world of the rent-taking agent, we are bound to comment that they could be neater still. So the JC took the opportunity to give them a once-over.
Here you go, Mr. Musk: in return for a complimentary blue check for the hereafter — at $8 per month that’s a steal — you are most welcome. It’s only going to be the two of us on the platform anyway, if Stephen King is to be believed.
|Subject||Existing Twitter Rule||JC’s suggestion||Commentary|
|Violence||You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people. We also prohibit the glorification of violence.||You must not incite, glorify or threaten violence, terrorism, or violent extremism.||The Twitter Rules’ treatment of violent conduct is all over the shop. It can be simplified down. “Groups” are collections of individuals. Specific cultural groups are already covered elsewhere.|
|Terrorism/violent extremism||You may not threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism.||[omit]||These are all types of violence. Separating them creates the impression that they are somehow qualitatively different.|
|Child sexual exploitation||We have zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation on Twitter||You must not sexually exploit anyone.||“zero tolerance” is a ghastly, and meaningless, statement. And why just children? Is it okay to exploit adults?|
|Abuse/harassment||You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. This includes wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm.||You must not harass anyone, or incite anyone else to do so.||Harm moves to the violence category. Harassment is a different category.|
|Hateful conduct||You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.||You must not discriminate against anyone because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or illness.||Promoting violence, threatening and harassing is already banned above. This feels like it ought to be “discriminate against”: one can be quite derogatory and unpleasant in a hateful way without harassing or being violent. “Gender” is a touchy subject, so worth distinguishing “gender identity” from “sex”.|
|Perpetrators of violent attacks||We will remove any accounts maintained by individual perpetrators of terrorist, violent extremist, or mass violent attacks, and may also remove Tweets disseminating manifestos or other content produced by perpetrators||[omit]||This is not a rule, but a consequence of breach of the rules, so does not fit here. Presumably Twitter will remove accounts or tweets of those who breach any of the rules, so stating this one in particular is distracting.|
|Suicide or self-harm||You may not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm.||You must not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm.||Suicide is really a type of self-harm, but there is something to be said for calling it out separately.|
|Sensitive media, including graphic violence and adult content||You may not post media that is excessively gory or share violent or adult content within live video or in profile or header images. Media depicting sexual violence and/or assault is also not permitted.||You must not share gory, violent or adult content without a legitimate public interest and, if you do, you must post suitable warnings.||Excessively invites value judgments and arguments. Does Twitter want gory, violent or adult context at all? (the “public interest” exception intended to make an exception for news reporting etc).|
|Illegal or certain regulated goods or services||You may not use our service for any unlawful purpose or in furtherance of illegal activities. This includes selling, buying, or facilitating transactions in illegal goods or services, as well as certain types of regulated goods or services.||You must not use Twitter to break any laws or regulations. You must not use it to buy or sell illegal goods or services.||Can be made more direct. The “buying and selling” gloss somewhat detracts from the basic point.|
|Private information||You may not publish or post other people’s private information (such as home phone number and address) without their express authorization and permission. We also prohibit threatening to expose private information or incentivizing others to do so.||You must not post, threaten to post, or encourage anyone else to post, anyone’s private information (including video and images) without the person’s express permission.||Generalized to all private and sensitive information, including sensitive content. Not obvious reason why these should be treated differently.|
|Non-consensual nudity||You may not post or share intimate photos or videos of someone that were produced or distributed without their consent||[omit]||Wrapped into private information. It seems to contemplate consensual intimate (i.e., adult/erotic) information. Is that the intent? In any case not clear why one would separate “private” from “intimate” information. Adult content is dealt with elsewhere.|
|Platform manipulation and spam||You may not use Twitter’s services in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter.||You must not use Twitter to to spam, amplify or suppress information or to manipulate or disrupt other people’s experience on Twitter.||Arguably could be consoldated with “civic integrity”, as really different aspects of the same thing. It isn’t clear how this rule captures spam.|
|Civic Integrity||You may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes. This includes posting or sharing content that may suppress participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate in a civic process.||You must not illegally manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes. You must not share content that may prevent participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate.||Legal manipulation of an election includes campaigning — you are influencing people to vote for you, after all — and people express political opinions with this intent all the time, so this is a somewhat nebulous category.|
|Misleading and Deceptive Identities||You may not impersonate individuals, groups, or organizations to mislead, confuse, or deceive others, nor use a fake identity in a manner that disrupts the experience of others on Twitter.||You must not impersonate anyone in a way that will mislead, confuse, or deceive anyone. You must clearly label any “parody” account.||Needs to do more to call out parody accounts, which are one of the few unalloyed joys of Twitter.|
|Synthetic and manipulated media||You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm. In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.||You must not share manipulated media in a way that is likely to mislead or offend anyone.||The “labelling” clause suggests that, actually you can use manipulated media. It is stronger without this caveat. This could probably be rolled into “platform manipulation and spam”.|
|Copyright and trademark||You may not violate others’ intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademark.||You must not violate others’ copyrights, patents and trademarks.||Okay, but — much of social media is basically predicated on doing exactly that, with loosely inferred permission, so this one is rather a weak rule.|
|Changes||We may need to change these rules from time to time in order to support our goal of promoting a healthy public conversation. The most current version is always available at https://twitter.com/rules.||We may change these rules at any time. The latest version will always be posted at https://twitter.com/rules||Don’t give a reason! It is your platform: you make the rules!|