Twitter’s Vice President of Public Policy and Communications recently stated in an interview that it was “no longer possible to stand up for all speech.”
Business Insider UK reports that Sinead McSweeney, Twitter’s vice president of public policy and communications for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa said in a recent interview that the social media company could no longer “stand up for all speech.” This is at odds with how former Twitter executive Tony Wang described the company in 2012 when he stated that it was “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.”
McSweeney appeared before British politicians this week, alongside representatives of tech firms Google and Facebook, to explain why “hate speech” and extremist content are so prevalent across all of their social media platforms. Over the course of the three-hour interview, McSweeney acknowledged Twitter’s previous dedication to the concept of free speech and explained the companies new stance on speech,
“I look back over last 5 and a half years, and the answers I would have given to some of these questions five years ago were very different. Twitter was in a place where it believed the most effective antidote to bad speech was good speech,” said McSweeney, implying that Twitter no longer believes this. “It was very much a John Stuart Mill-style philosophy. We’ve realized the world we live in has changed. We’ve had to go on a journey with it, and we’ve realized it’s no longer possible to stand up for all speech in the hopes society will become a better place because racism will be challenged, or homophobia challenged, or extremism will be challenged,” said McSweeney. “And we do have to take steps to limit the visibility of hateful symbols, to ban people from the platform who affiliate with violent groups — that’s the journey we’re on.”
McSweeney joined Twitter in 2012 shortly after Wang made his comments about the companies dedication to free speech. This is the first time that a Twitter executive has openly and officially stated that the company is no longer dedicated to free and open speech. The announcement is unsurprising given the companies recent purge of Twitter accounts deemed offensive.