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Twitter promises tougher stance against threats and abuse

Twitter has revised its rules of conduct to stress that it forbids violent threats and abusive behaviour by users, promising a tough stance as critics call for the online service to take a harder line against extremists.

While the new policy unveiled does not substantively change what is allowed, it may help Twitter answer criticism from politicians and others who say militant extremists are using the service and other social networks to recruit members and promote their violent agendas.

One advocate, however, said the real test would be how Twitter enforced the rules.

"The new rules are definitely an improvement," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Digital Terrorism and Hate Project at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles.

"But the question is: will they be accompanied by a more proactive attitude toward making sure repeat offenders are identified and permanently removed?"

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment but in a blog post, the company said: "The updated language emphasises that Twitter will not tolerate behaviour intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user's voice.

"As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs - but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse."

The new policy says Twitter will suspend or shut any user account that engages in "hateful conduct" or whose "primary purpose is inciting harm towards others". The company previously said users could not promote or threaten violence and in April added a ban on "promotion of terrorism".

Under "hateful conduct", the new policy warns users: "You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease."

The new policy also explicitly bans "creating multiple accounts with overlapping uses" aimed at evading suspension of a single account.

Critics say Twitter has previously made it too easy for extremists to create new accounts as soon as older ones are shut down.

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