The more Twitter explains, the less we understand

Revue
 
I often compare Twitter to the Bluth Company — that fictional family business from Arrested Developme
 

The Interface

December 1 · Issue #38 · View online
An evening newsletter about Facebook, social networks, and democracy.

I often compare Twitter to the Bluth Company — that fictional family business from Arrested Development, whose patriarch famously may have committed some light treason as part of a real estate deal with Saddam Hussein’s government. Twitter isn’t being accused of treason, though its peculiar intersection with our democracy still sparks plenty of room for concern. But the company has taken a similarly bumbling approach to navigating its way out of trouble, and today it made what may have been its most confounding move yet.
Yesterday we told you that the company had decided to leave up a bunch of hate-mongering retweets by the president that included graphic, anti-Muslim videos. The videos were posted by Britain First, a far-right fringe group, and they got exponentially more attention after Trump shared them to his 43.8 million followers. The company’s explanation then was this, per CNN:
“To help ensure people have an opportunity to see every side of an issue, there may be the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behavior which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability.”
As I said yesterday, there was no good answer here. Leave the tweets up and you’re allowing the president to incite violence; take them down and you’ve declared yourself the president’s editor in-chief. But I’m told that Twitter employees hated the answer the company gave, and so today … it gave a new one.
In a blow to Twitter’s credibility, the company retracted its previous explanation for why it did not remove tweets that included graphic anti-Muslim videos that were retweeted this week by President Donald Trump. “We mistakenly pointed to the wrong reason we didn’t take action on the videos from earlier this week,” CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted on Friday. “We’re still looking critically at all of our current policies, and appreciate all the feedback.”
Bluntly: this is a disaster. In one fell swoop, Dorsey undermined the credibility of his entire beleaguered communications department. (Who remain, I would note, some of the hardest-working and most amicable people I know, no matter what I write about their employer.) The company already had a trust problem due to its tendency to arbitrarily change (and enforce) its trust-and-safety policies — now we can’t take the company’s communications arm at its word. The next time it offers an explanation for one reason or another, we won’t even know if it’s what the company actually believes.
Why does Twitter do what it does? Even the company, we learned on Friday, cannot say. And that’s a misfortune whose repercussions will reverberate far beyond today.

Democracy
China’s Tech Giants Have a Second Job: Helping Beijing Spy on Its People
Elsewhere
YouTube Is Disabling Predatory Comments — But Leaving Up The Predators' Accounts
Facebook leases Fremont buildings for big expansion
Launches
Facebook to Test Pre-Roll Video Ads Ahead of Watch Shows
Twitter Lite with lower data usage becomes available in 24 new countries
Periscope expands virtual tipping via Super Hearts beyond the U.S.
Takes
Social Apps Are Now a Commodity
And finally ...
James Comey's first Instagram post 😍
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Explanations of Twitter’s current media policy? casey@theverge.com 
Did you enjoy this issue?
Thumbs up 1ae5a7bdfcd3220e2b376aa0c1607bc5edaba758e5dd83b482d03965219a220b Thumbs down e13779fa29e2935b47488fb8f82977fedcf689a0cc0cc3c19fa3c6bb14d1493b
Carefully curated by Casey Newton with Revue.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.