Enlarge /. During the demonstration "Freedom for Uyghurs" on August 20, 2020 in The Hague, Netherlands, a woman wears a mask with the Uyghur flag.
Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Twitter has told Ars Technica that a tweet from the Chinese government praising China's treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority does not violate its policy of hateful behavior.
"The study shows that eradicating extremism has emancipated the minds of Uyghur women in Xinjiang and promoted gender equality and reproductive health so that they are no longer machines for making babies," the tweet read. "You are more confident and independent."
Human rights activists have characterized China's treatment of Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang region as demographic genocide. Here's how the Associated Press described China's approach last summer:
The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks and enforces hundreds of thousands of intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion, interviews and data show. Although the use of IUDs and sterilization has declined across the country, it is increasing sharply in Xinjiang.
Population control measures are supported by mass detention as both a threat and a punishment for non-compliance. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention centers, according to the AP. The parents of three or more children are torn from their families unless they can pay heavy fines. Police raid homes and scare parents as they look for hidden children.
Thursday's tweet from the Chinese Embassy in the United States referred to an article in the China Daily, a Chinese Communist Party publication, that denies these claims. The article alleges that since China eradicated "religious extremism" in the region, Uighur women have freely chosen to make greater use of birth control, resulting in a decline in birth rates in the region. It rejects claims by "some Western scholars and politicians" that China carried out forced sterilization of Uygurs.
Twitter regularly removes content that violates its rules. Twitter's Anti-Hateful Behavior Rule states that users "must not promote, directly attack or threaten violence against other people because of their race, ethnicity, or religion." Also, users are not allowed to "target individuals and groups with content intended to induce fear or spread fearful stereotypes about a protected category" – such as "all [religious group] are terrorists".
Twitter also prohibits "dehumanizing any group of people" based on their religion, race, or ethnicity.
On Thursday evening, I emailed Twitter to ask if the tweet was against the rules. A Twitter spokesperson was quick to respond, saying it wasn't. "This tweet does not violate our guidelines," he wrote to Ars.
Twitter's rules are so vague that it is hard to tell if the tweet violates the letter of the guidelines. It does not explicitly call for violence against the Uighur minority. Indeed, it insists that the Uygurs have not been victims of violence or dehumanization at all. At the same time, the claim that Uighur women have been held back by "extremist" views that have turned them into "baby-making machines" seems quite dehumanizing. And Twitter may want to take into account not just the literal words of the tweet, but the broader context of the Chinese government's actions in the Xinjiang region.