Twitter is taking a harder line on hate speech – after updating its rules to reaffirm a ban on homophobia and other bigotry.

The social network has long been candid about its issues dealing with anonymous abuse, with many complaining it has become a breeding ground for racist, misogynistic and homophobic trolls.

Even groups such as Islamic State and the ‘God Hates Fags’ Westboro Baptist Church have used the platform to spread their messages without repercussions.

However, a blog post from Twitter’s safety director Megan Cristina said: “As part of our continued efforts to combat abuse, we’re updating the Twitter Rules to clarify what we consider to be abusive behaviour and hateful conduct.

“The updated language emphasizes that Twitter will not tolerate behavior 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.

It adds: “Over the past year, we’ve taken several steps to fight abuse… [including] increasing our investment in policy enforcement so that we can handle more reports with greater efficiency.

“One of the areas we’ve found to be effective in this multi-layered strategy of fighting abuse is creating mandatory actions for suspected abusive behavior, such as email and phone verification, and user deletion of Tweets for violations.

“These measures curb abusive behaviour by helping the community understand what is acceptable on our platform.”

The site updated its policy, to clarify: “Any accounts and related accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.

“Hateful conduct: 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.

“We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”

The social media site also showed off its new tools – which include forcing anonymous users to verify their identity via phone if reported.