Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has posted a long thread in which he laments having to permanently suspend US president Donald Trump’s personal twitter account.
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here,” he opened, before going on to argue that “this was the right decision for Twitter” because the potential for violence to flow from Trump’s tweets was real.
“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” he tweeted.
Dorsey then said that the ban is ultimately a Twitter problem.
That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
The CEO went on to argue that when Twitter bans a user, they can just go elsewhere. But he noted that last week’s mass de-platforming events are a new and unsettling phenomenon that challenge accepted notions of online openness.
This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
The reason I have so much passion for #Bitcoin is largely because of the model it demonstrates: a foundational internet technology that is not controlled or influenced by any single individual or entity. This is what the internet wants to be, and over time, more of it will be.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
Dorsey reminded readers that in 2019 the company funded an effort to create “an open and decentralized standard for social media” that addresses the spread of disinformation. Twitter hopes to become a user of that tool. But Dorsey said it will take time to build, perhaps because Twitter intends to hire “up to five” people to work on the project.
He ended the thread as follows.
I believe the internet and global public conversation is our best and most relevant method of achieving this. I also recognize it does not feel that way today. Everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
When social media companies stuff up, they inevitably acknowledge their error, apologise weakly, then make vague promises to do better in future.
Dorsey’s thread scarcely acknowledges that Twitter has for years erred by doing too little to make itself a source of “healthy conversation”. He doesn’t really apologise for that neglect. And he makes exceptionally vague promises about how the company intends to do better in future.
He’s a little stronger on the issue of free speech, but overall, the thread exposes that Twitter has long tolerated very bad behaviour by some users. And still doesn’t seem to fully grasp the consequences of having done so. ®