- Jack Dorsey broke his silence Wednesday on Twitter’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump.
- Dorsey called it “the right decision for Twitter” amid “an extraordinary and untenable” circumstances, but said a ban was a “failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation” and that could set a “dangerous” precedent.
- In the series of tweets, Dorsey also advocated for more open and decentralized approaches to developing social media standards, citing Bitcoin as an example of a technology “not controlled or influenced by any single individual.”
- Twitter, Facebook, and Snap indefinitely banned Trump after he incited rioters at the US Capitol last week, while Apple, Google, and Amazon all cut ties with far-right social media upstart Parler, reigniting debates over the balance between speech and public safety.
- Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives on Wednesday for “incitement of insurrection,” related to last week’s Capitol riots.
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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey spoke out on Wednesday for the first time following an attempted insurrection at the US Capitol last week â€” and Twitter’s decision to permanently banish the president over his role in incitement.
In a series of tweets, Dorsey said he believed Twitter made the right call given the extreme situation, while also expressing concerns about possible negative long-term consequences, and advocating for more decentralized efforts to police social media platforms.
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter,” Dorsey said.
“I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” Dorsey added.
His comments alluded to Twitter’s rationale for banning Trump last week, which cited “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.
— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
However, Dorsey also indicated that blocking Trump was far from his preferred course of action, calling it “a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.”
Dorsey said that such actions “fragment the public conversation… divide us… limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning,” while setting a “dangerous” precedent by highlighting “the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”
Shortly after Twitter banned Trump last week, Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram took similar steps, while Axios reported that Snap followed on Wednesday â€” all citing Trump’s incitement of violence â€” marking the most significant crackdown by social media platforms against such a high-profile public figure.
That prompted many Trump supporters to quickly flock to far-right social media platforms like Parler and Gab, which have sought to brand themselves as bastions of free speech because of their lax approaches to policing content.
But as widespread reports emerged detailing the extent to which rioters relied on Parler to organise and incite violence on January 6, other major tech companies began cutting ties with the site, with Amazon booting it from AWS, its web-hosting platform, and Apple and Google pulling Parler’s app from their app stores.
Dorsey said that “challenged” the idea that one check on Twitter’s power over the public conversation is competition from sites like Parler and Gab.
“I do not believe this was coordinated. More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others,” Dorsey said of the tech companies’ actions. But, he argued: “Over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.”
Dorsey said social media companies needed to reflect on “inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement,” how they “incentivise distraction and harm,” and increase transparency around their content moderation efforts, while also making his case for a more decentralized approach to policing platforms, which he did by plugging Bitcoin and Bluesky, Twitter’s own attempt to do exactly that.
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
Questions about the role that social media platforms â€” large ones like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and Reddit as well as fringe upstarts like Parler, Gab, and MeWe â€” played in radicalizing, connecting, inciting, and abetting extremists has come into sharp focus following last week’s violence at the US Capitol.
And while the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private companies, It has also reignited debates over how those platforms â€” which also operate in many authoritarian countries â€” should balance public safety with free speech and other conflicting values.
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