Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has some more muddled thoughts on moderation on his platform, including a half-assed explanation of why he banned Infowars host Alex Jones and why the president should be allowed to use his platform to threaten nuclear war with North Korea.
Per the Daily Beast, Dorsey took to comedian-turned-podcaster Joe Rogan’s show in an episode that aired Saturday morning (that’s the same show that SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk smoked weed on, for the record). During the show, Rogan asked Dorsey why he had banned Jones, who was kicked off Twitter following a wave of bans on other platforms for his habit of hate speech and attacking mass shooting survivors’ families.
“What is social media?” Rogan asked. “Is it something everyone has a right to? Or should it be restricted to only people that are willing to behave and carry themselves in a certain way?”
“I believe it’s something that everyone has a right to,” Dorsey replied.
“Everyone has a right to?” Rogan continued. “But you still ban people. Like say, Alex Jones, you guys were the last guys to keep Alex Jones on the platform. You were the last ones. I believe it wasn’t until he started harassing you personally.”
“No,” Dorsey replied. “[Jones] did very different things on our platform than others. We saw this domino effect over a weekend of one platform banning him, and then another, and then another, and another, in very, very quick succession, and people might have assumed that we would just follow suit, but he didn’t violate our terms of service. Afterwards, he did.”
(This is not exactly true. The formal rationale for Twitter’s decision to ban the Infowars host was indeed a live-stream of Jones harassing CNN reporter Oliver Darcy. But before it pulled the plug, a CNN investigation found numerous instances of Jones breaking Twitter rules in other posts, forcing Twitter to concede he had in fact violated their policies.)
As the Daily Beast noted, Dorsey then bent over backwards to defend the platform’s role hosting Donald Trump, who Rogan suggested had violated policies against encouraging violence with his threats to destroy North Korea. One example:
Dorsey responded with a confusing stream of thoughts on “context” and “different mediums,” then suggested that Trump isn’t all different from Obama, who had also threatened to nuke North Korea or something.
“It was the context that presidents of this country have used similar language on different mediums,” Dorsey said. “They say it on radio, they say it on television. If you were to look at President Obama, it wasn’t the exact same tone, but there were threats surrounding the same country. We have to take that context into consideration.”
Dorsey may be referring to the time Obama told CBS News there are “no easy solutions” adding that “We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals. But aside from the humanitarian costs of that, they are right next door to our vital ally, [South] Korea.”
These are not equivalent situations, despite the White House’s attempts to pretend they are—Obama clearly intended to explain why he didn’t think going to war with another nuclear-armed power is a good idea. Meanwhile, as far as “context” goes, Trump had previously threatened North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
In any case, this is a good illustration that Dorsey’s version of playing the neutral facilitator often just ends up as either incomprehensible truisms or attempts to placate his most vocal critics (who in many cases tend to be right-wingers trying to work the refs).
In any case, Dorsey did have a second explanation for why Trump’s tweets need to stay up that stands up to a little more scrutiny—that his tweets are inherently newsworthy. This is indeed true, even if it is also a way for Twitter to avoid the firestorm that would be sparked if they banned or penalized Trump.
“Public figures might be in violation of our terms of service, but the tweet itself is of public interest,” Dorsey told Rogan. “But the tweet itself is of public interest. It should be talked about. That is probably the thing people disagree with the most, and where we have a lot of internal debate.”
Dorsey also moved slightly from his prior statement that the most Twitter would commit to doing if Trump told his followers to, say, start murdering random journalists, is “certainly talk about it.”
“If we had a public leader, like the president of the United States, make a violent threat against a private individual, we would take action,” Dorsey told Rogan.