Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a rare appearance on conservative media earlier today, joining Fox News personality Sean Hannity on his radio show to discuss social media censorship in the wake of his decision not to follow the rest of Silicon Valley in banning Alex Jones from his platform.
In the interview, Dorsey admitted Twitter’s failure to be transparent about the reasons for banning accounts and deleting content, and pledged to communicate those reasons in future. However, the Twitter CEO also defended the company’s practice of artificially downranking content in search results and conversations, pushing the far-left argument that some forms of speech “silence” other forms of speech. He also stuck to the company line that Twitter’s decision to artificially limit the reach of a user’s content without informing them does not constitute a”shadowban.”
Hannity begun by warning Dorsey that overzealous censorship would lead to the rise of free speech oriented competitors.
“I tend to be, myself, a first amendment absolutist… On social media, we all make decisions about the content we choose to engage in. In other words, you are the final arbiter. And if companies are going to decide, ‘well, this person stays and this person goes’… I imagine over time, there are going to be alternative competitors that allow everybody to stay pretty much whatever they want.”
In fact, such a competitor, Gab.ai, already exists — but its growth has been hampered by bans on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, whose companies together hold a 99% market share stranglehold on smartphones.
Dorsey told Hannity he wants to be as “open as possible” about Twitter’s algorithms, admitting that Twitter has not been transparent in the past about its reasons for banning users and deleting content.
“I think the first thing is, in the past we did not communicate why we would take actions on tweets, or why we might suspend temporarily or permanently. We want to communicate those reasons to the person who was suspended or tweets in question, and also the reporters.”
“We haven’t done a great job of communicating our principles. The guidelines that help us make the decisions in the first place.”
While denying that the company practices “shadowbanning,” Dorsey nonetheless admitted to trying to suppress certain types of discussion on the platform, without notifying users about it — a practice that many say is effectively a shadowban on content.
“These are models that are looking at behaviors… Behaviors of bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate, distract, divide a conversation, or unfairly amplify their content that they didn’t earn. We do rank search, we do rank trends, we do rank conversations accordingly. That does not affect one’s timeline. If you follow someone on Twitter, you’re going to see them in your timeline. We do rank the timeline for relevance, so it might take some scrolling to see everything, but you can also turn that ranking off in the settings so you can see everything in ‘recently’ order.”
Dorsey also reiterated an argument popular on the far-left, that certain forms of speech “silence” other forms of speech, and therefore have to be suppressed in search results and trending topics.
The Twitter CEO wouldn’t respond directly to whether he’d ban someone who said: “I wish someone would punch Hannity in the face.”
“In all these considerations, not to get into specifics, we have to get into the contexts … We make sure that all of our folks understand the cultural context [in which] something is said. Because some cultural contexts enables some speech that other cultural contexts don’t. As we review cases of reports or blocks or mutes, we have to make sure that we’re taking into consideration the context and acting appropriately.”
Dorsey said that he hoped to take action “with warnings, with notices, with a temporary lock of the account until that tweet is reviewed or deleted, and ideally giving the exact reasons why it violates our terms of service.”
The commitment to warning and temporarily suspending users seems to be at odds with their lightning permabans of users whenever a celebrity is offended. Conservative satirical character Godfrey Elfwick, for examples, was permanently banned from Twitter because of a single insult directed at BBC star Gary Linekar.
Dorsey admitted that Twitter will “certainly miss things” when it comes to enforcing the company’s terms of service, but he did not address why even well-publicized examples of left-wing celebrities violating the platform’s terms have not been addressed, for example rapper Taleb Kweli repeatedly hurling racial epithets at Breitbart News reporter Jerome Hudson, or actor Peter Fonda calling for President Trump’s son to be “ripped from his mothers arms and put in a cage with pedophiles.”
Listen to Jack Dorsey’s full interview with Sean Hannity below: