NEW YORK—PEN American Center welcomes today’s announcement by Twitter that it is updating its policies to better address the complex challenge of abusive and harassing speech online, while simultaneously reaffirming its commitment to safeguard free expression. 
 
The two policy changes relate to prohibited content that is deemed abusive or violent and how Twitter responds to and enforces consequences for certain policy violations to delimit intentionally harmful and abusive speech. This change suggests Twitter has adopted a view gaining popularity in the social media sphere, that some constraints on speech are necessary in order to enable open expression more broadly to flourish.  
 
“At PEN we understand this rationale, but hope to see it applied with caution and deliberation so that efforts to promote the free flow of speech don’t end up subverting it,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “The speed, spread, and velocity of communications on social media pose new challenges to expression, sometimes seeming to pit one person’s free speech against that of another. Twitter is right to pay careful attention to how to strike the right balance, but must make sure that as it implements its new policies to limit content that invites violence or is abusive, it doesn’t end up going too far in the direction of prohibiting tweets just because they may be offensive or uncomfortable.”

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,000 U.S writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide. Its distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and the advancement of human rights of such past members as Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. www.pen.org

 

CONTACTS:

Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director: snossel@pen.org, +1 646-779-4810
Katy Glenn Bass, Free Expression Programs: kglennbass@pen.org, +1 646-779-4818
Sarah Edkins, Communications Manager: sedkins@pen.org, +1 646-779-4830