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Twitter finally draws a line on extremism

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On Friday I wrote about Twitter's seeming paralysis when it came to enforcing its platform rules. Wha
 
August 13 · Issue #185 · View online
The Interface
On Friday I wrote about Twitter’s seeming paralysis when it came to enforcing its platform rules. What, exactly, was going on over there? Late Friday evening, we got an answer of sorts. The company invited Cecilia Kang and Kate Conger of The New York Times to sit in on a meeting in which CEO Jack Dorsey and 18 of his colleagues debated safety policies. The meeting was rather … inconclusive, they report:
For about an hour, the group tried to get a handle on what constituted dehumanizing speech. At one point, Mr. Dorsey wondered if there was a technology solution. There was no agreement on an answer.
Elsewhere in the piece, executives sound other notes we’ve heard before from this and other platforms: Free speech is valuable. Moderation issues are difficult. User safety is important. Ultimately, Twitter seemed to double down on delayed action, agreeing “to draft a policy about dehumanizing speech and open it to the public for their comments.” (Is Twitter really lacking for public speech on this subject?)
Of course, policies are only meaningful insofar as they are enforced. Dorsey’s stated rationale for keeping Alex Jones and Infowar on Twitter is that Jones had not violated the site’s rules. CNN’s Oliver Darcy demolished that rationale with a single Twitter search.
Late Friday, Twitter copped to it, saying Jones had in fact violated its rules at least seven times. Five were posted before Twitter adopted more stringent behavior guidelines, but two of them were posted “recently enough that Twitter could cite them in the future to take additional punitive action against Jones’ accounts,” Darcy reported.
A seven-strikes-and-you’re-still-in approach to dehumanizing speech would seem to encourage more of it. Twitter’s shifting explanations, coupled with theatrical “transparency,” inspire little confidence. The company declines to enforce its rules, then invites journalists in to watch it agonize over the bind it’s gotten itself into. It feels absurd.
Surprisingly, the company later did draw a line against hate speech, though not against the practitioner we expected. Ryan Mac and Blake Montgomery broke the news that Twitter had suspended several accounts associated with the Proud Boys, a right-wing group that attended last year’s Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, ahead of this year’s gathering.
The group violated Twitter’s policies against “violent extremist groups,” Twitter said. BuzzFeed reported that the Proud Boys have attended several rallies that have turned violent. That included a recent one in Portland. So far, Facebook hasn’t followed suit — despite the fact that the Proud Boys do their primary recruiting there, according to this helpful piece from Taylor Hatmaker.
Meanwhile, the mother of a 6-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim says Alex Jones and Infowars continue to inspire threats against her. “If there are clear threatening actions and harassment that continues from Jones and Infowars, and then Twitter doesn’t take action, well yeah, people need to understand that there are consequences for actions as well as inactions,” Nicole Hockley, who is suing Jones, told Remy Smidt.
The consequences of inaction often seem to be the thing that Twitter understands the least.

Democracy
Can Society Scale?
An 11-Year-Old Changed The Results Of Florida's Presidential Vote At A Hacker Convention. Discuss.
Russian Hackers Targeted Swedish News Sites In 2016, State Department Cable Says
‘It’s our time to serve the Motherland’: How Russia’s war in Georgia sparked Moscow’s modern-day recruitment of criminal hackers — Meduza
Vimeo is the latest platform to remove content from InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones
Elsewhere
Online activists hit hatemongers like Alex Jones where it hurts the most — in the wallet
Facebook’s message to media: “We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic…That is the old world and there is no going back”
Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive
Back-to-school shopping for kids involves Amazon wishlists and Snapchat filters
Launches
Twitter Lite in the Google Play Store: now available in 45+ countries
Takes
Twitter and Facebook Are Platforms, Not Publishers
And finally ...
Kevin Roose had me at “Mark Zuckerberg protest song.” The video is helpfully captioned so you don’t even have to listen to the words or the music.
Kevin Roose
I watched this Mark Zuckerberg protest song and now you all have to. I'm sorry those are just the rules. https://t.co/Er3b9Jj5sn
10:09 AM - 13 Aug 2018
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, or dehumanizing speech policies: casey@theverge.com
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