View profile

Jack Dorsey makes everyone mad — except Sean Hannity

Revue
 
Last night, amid growing pressure to address Alex Jones' presence on Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey tried t
 
August 8 · Issue #182 · View online
The Interface
Last night, amid growing pressure to address Alex Jones’ presence on Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey tried to explain the company’s position. In a series of five tweets, he made the following case:
  • Jones hasn’t violated Twitter’s rules.
  • Twitter won’t ban someone just because other platforms did.
  • Journalists should “document, validate, and refute” the “unsubstantiated rumors” that “accounts like Jones’” spread.
He then linked to a somewhat confounding new blog post, “The Twitter Rules: A Living Document,” that does little more than say that the Twitter rules are a living document. It was confounding in that no one had accused the Twitter rules of being a dead document, only a weak and erratically enforced one, in any case it seemed to bear little relation to Dorsey’s tweets, even though they were published simultaneously.
Publicly, the tweet storm generated more than 20,000 replies in its first 24 hours. It seemed like a lot for Twitter to say on a subject where it had taken no action, especially given that inaction is the company’s default operating mode on policy issues. It generated a flood of negative commentary from journalists, who took exception the idea that they should serve in an unpaid role as Twitter’s unofficial moderators; and from current and former employees, who were put off by Dorsey’s muddy reasoning.
Emily Horne, until recently Twitter’s head of policy communications, called out Dorsey’s apparent undermining of its messaging. “Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that,” he tweeted. To which Horne responded: “Please don’t blame the current state of play on communications. These decisions aren’t easy, but they aren’t comms calls and it’s unhelpful to denigrate your colleagues whose credibility will help explain them.
Dorsey replied that he wasn’t blaming the team, although he has before. In November, Twitter was dealing with a series of tweets containing graphic anti-Muslim videos. The tweets were posted by Britain First, a far-right fringe group, and were later retweeted by President Donald Trump. Twitter decided to let the tweets stand because, while they may have violated its rules, they were newsworthy.
A day later, the company reversed course, saying the tweets were allowed because — like Jones — they didn’t violate its rules after all. “We mistakenly pointed to the wrong reason we didn’t take action on the videos from earlier this week,” Dorsey tweeted.
In both cases, Dorsey framed Twitter’s struggles to address hate speech on its platform not as issues of policy but of communication. And yet, as one former Twitter employee noted to me yesterday, Dorsey’s tweetstorm itself communicated no real information about Jones or company policy. The fact that he hadn’t been found in violation of its rules was apparent by the fact that his account remained active.
At the same time, the thread introduced at least three new problems. One, by having its CEO discuss individual accounts publicly, Twitter encouraged the idea that account banning is subject to a single person’s whims. Two, it publicly undermined Twitter’s communications team for the second time in a year. Three, it inexplicably passed the buck for enforcing its policies to journalists.
None of that came up Wednesday afternoon, when Dorsey — turning his attention to the conservative fantasy that Republicans are being ”shadow banned“ from the service — went on Sean Hannity’s radio show. As Dorsey calmly explained timeline ranking, Hannity praised Dorsey lavishly for his inaction over Jones. No one learned anything.
For that we had to wait until Wednesday afternoon, when Charlie Warzel posted an internal memo from Twitter safety chief Del Harvey. (Harvey later tweeted it herself.) Harvey was also the author of the "living document” blog post, but the memo, despite being of basically equal length, contained vastly more information.
The reason Jones hasn’t been banned, she said, is that while his past actions violate Twitter’s current rules, they didn’t violate its rules at the time. And so he can stay, assuming he doesn’t violate the living document. Harvey went on to say that further changes to the rules could affect Jones, including a new policy about speech that dehumanizes others.
Regarding what she called “the dehumanization policy,” Harvey said Twitter has “a goal of having a recommendation for a path forward for staff review by mid-September” — an almost comically non-committal commitment. The down side of Twitter’s commitment to transparency is that sometimes, you can see right through them.
Meanwhile Apple said it hadn’t banned the Infowars app because it hadn’t caught any bad behavior on its live streams yet. It was the No. 1 trending app in the Google Play Store.

Democracy
With Alex Jones, Facebook’s Worst Demons Abroad Begin to Come Home
Inside Google’s Effort to Develop a Censored Search Engine in China
YouTube Is Now Fact-Checking Videos About Climate Change
Subpoena for app called ‘Discord’ could unmask identities of Charlottesville white supremacists
Elsewhere
Amazon seems to have quietly stopped recommending Alex Jones products
Who are QAnon supporters? The QAnon subreddit, analyzed with data.
Facebook’s Teen App Used A “Psychological Trick” To Attract High School Downloads
For women on Twitch, appearing single has become a minefield
Launches
Magic Leap One Creator Edition preview: a flawed glimpse of mixed reality’s amazing potential
New facial recognition tool tracks targets across social networks
Ethical OS Helps Tech Startups Avert Moral Disasters
Takes
Twitter is not your friend. The Sarah Jeong saga shows us why.
Snapchat Is Becoming Like the Internet It Disdains
And finally ...
Facebook Added Balloons and Confetti to Posts About the Earthquake in Indonesia
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, @jack replies: casey@theverge.com
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue