Twitter Gives a Very Bad and Unsatisfying Explanation for Why It Won’t Ban Alex Jones
As we’ve covered, Alex Jones has been getting shown the door by a number of platforms over the last few days. Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, LinkedIn, Stitcher, Apple, and even, apparently, Pinterest, have told Jones that his hate speech and violent conspiracy theorist nonsense isn’t welcome on their sites.
fucking livid i didnt know about the infowars pinterest page https://t.co/j0nKDtdJa3
— Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) August 6, 2018
Notably absent from that list, though, is Twitter. Seeing as the company has been so vocal lately about trying to curb “troll-like behaviors” and working to “reduce people’s ability to detract from healthy public conversation,” it seems like they’d be on board with banning someone who has built his career on harassing the parents of murdered children as well as teenage school shooting victims, who uses his platform to spread dangerous and hateful misinformation.
Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, continues to host video where Alex Jones pantomimes shooting Robert Mueller while accusing him of covering up pedophilia https://t.co/XYotvJC4RC pic.twitter.com/28kiIiFvFs
— Media Matters (@mmfa) August 8, 2018
But nope. In response to users calling for Twitter to boot Jones and wondering why it has remained silent on the matter, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explained last night in a series of tweets that the company won’t be banning Jones because, according to them, he hasn’t violated their terms of service.
In the thread, Dorsey says they are “going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” presumably referencing the theory that conservative voices have been getting “shadow banned” from the platform, but it’s an odd choice of words considering who we’re talking about.
“If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction,” Jack writes. “That’s not us.”
As a mystifying capper, Jack concluded that it’s the media’s job to stop dangerous men like Jones, not Twitter’s. “Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.”
As the CEO of a giant, influential platform, it’s totally disingenuous for Dorsey to pretend like allowing Jones to use that platform for lies and hate speech and harassment is an apolitical act. Yes, journalists play an important role in countering voices like Jones’ but Dorsey wants to ignore the role of the platform itself in allowing hate to fester and spread.
This response would be bad enough if Twitter didn’t ban accounts for far less across seemingly arbitrary lines (which they do). As is, a lot of users are calling Jack out for his feckless insincerity.
Having slept on it, I find @jack‘s foot-shiuffling rationale for allowing Alex Jones to continue to use Twitter more pathetic than I did yesterday, and I write that with a feeling of some amazement.
— William Gibson (@GreatDismal) August 8, 2018
There’s a good reason why @jack is continuing to tweet today after being silent on Alex Jones for so long. He knows he’s on the wrong side of this. When you’re the one social network whose amorphous rules somehow don’t prevent harassment & slander, that’s never a good place to be
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) August 8, 2018
It’s even simpler than that, @jack: Alex Jones harassed grieving parents to the point where they could no longer visit their children’s graves. And you’re okay with it. Say it that way, @jack. Keep it simple! https://t.co/9sVAYsmBHr
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) August 8, 2018
#Twitter is a private company and it’s 100% your choice whether or not to enforce your rules against targeted abuse (which Infowars violates). Just like it’s our choice as private consumers whether or not to boycott all your fucking advertisors. #Twitler pic.twitter.com/GPYu4oL6DG
— ÆMarling (@AEMarling) August 8, 2018
Dorsey is reportedly going to be talking with Sean Hannity about these issues, making it pretty clear which consumer base he’s trying to placate.
Some of these tech CEOs get the worst political advice. Don’t defend keeping Alex Jones on the platform by going on the show of the guy who promoted the Seth Rich conspiracy https://t.co/lch9XKpJ3O
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) August 8, 2018
You’d also think he might consider meeting with families of the murdered children of Sandy Hook that Alex Jones and his followers have relentlessly harassed for years first, but hey, who are we?
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) August 8, 2018
(image of yes, what I know is a Facebook emoji: freestocks.org from Pexels)
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