Flashback: Jack Dorsey Told Congress Twitter ‘Failed Our Intended Impartiality’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

In 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appeared before Congress where he made a number of claims, such as stating that Twitter is a “public square” and that the platform had unfairly filtered 600,000 accounts from search results, something Dorsey described as a failure of the company’s “intended impartiality.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is one of many major tech executives that has appeared before Congress to defend his company’s actions, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are amongst some of the other Silicon Valley executives that have testified. In 2018, Dorsey was called before House Energy and Commerce Committee to explain his platforms actions, specifically relating to censorship.

During that hearing, Dorsey made a number of statements. He repeatedly described Twitter as part of the “public square” while explaining why it was necessary to censor some content. Breitbart News’s Allum Bokhari wrote at the time: “The Twitter CEO’s wording is significant — according to U.S. law, speech and expression in the public square are protected by the First Amendment, regardless of whether the public squares are under private ownership.”

Bokhari added: “If Twitter is a public square under private ownership, it is obliged to protect the First Amendment rights of its users. Dorsey’s entire project of controlling “conversational health” and banning constitutionally protected speech on his platform would be a violation of the First Amendment. Dorsey would have no option but to relinquish the power of blocking and filtering users for lawful speech, and instead return that power to users via optional filters.

Dorsey repeatedly stated that Twitter was committed to “conversational health,” which simply allows the site to define what is acceptable speech and expression in a much narrower sense than the First Amendment’s limits on lawful speech and expression. This means that Twitter is not truly a “public square” but much more controlled conversational platform.

Dorsey further admitted to censoring 600,000 accounts on the platform, preventing them from appearing in search results based on the accounts of the followers they had. Dorsey stated at the time:

In the spirit of accountability and transparency: recently we failed our intended impartiality. Our algorithms were unfairly filtering 600,000 accounts, including some members of Congress, from our search auto-complete and latest results.

We fixed it. But how did it happen? Our technology was using a decision making criteria that considers the behavior of people following these accounts. We decided that wasn’t fair, and corrected. We‘ll always improve our technology and algorithms to drive healthier usage, and measure the impartiality of outcomes.

Bias in algorithms is an important topic. Our responsibility is to understand, measure, and reduce accidental bias due to factors such as the quality of the data used to train our algorithms. This is an extremely complex challenge facing everyone applying artificial intelligence.

It was reported at the time that several Breitbart News employees were affected by this filtering along with multiple other conservative figures. Despite this, Twitter has repeatedly claimed there is no bias against conservative users on its platform. This was directly questioned by independent journalist Tim Pool in an interview with CEO Jack Dorsey and Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde following Dorsey’s congressional hearing.

Breitbart News wrote at the time:

One of Pool’s major arguments during the show was that Twitter only takes action against conservatives on the platform because, since Twitter employees and executives are mostly left-wing, they only read left-wing and liberal websites and newspapers, which only report on conservatives who break rules on the platform.

After Gadde explained that conservative commentator Jacob Wohl was banned from Twitter for admitting in an interview with USA Today that he was running multiple accounts to influence elections, Pool asked Dorsey and Gadde whether they investigated Democrat Jonathan Morgan.

“I don’t know who that is,” replied Gadde, prompting Pool to reply, “You should know who he is. He’s more important than Jacob Wohl is. But for some reason you know about this conservative guy and not the Democrat who helped meddle in the Alabama election… We can see Jacob Wohl said that he’s done this, so you’re like we’re going to investigate and ban him. It was recently reported and covered by numerous outlets that a group called New Knowledge was meddling in the Alabama election by creating fake Russian accounts to manipulate national media into believing [Republican candidate] Roy Moore was propped up by the Russians. Facebook banned him and four other people, but Twitter didn’t.”

Read more about Dorsey’s appearance before Congress at Breitbart News here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com


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