As Twitter decided to play nanny and ban the sitting US President, Donald Trump, from its platform, its stock had plummeted as much as 10% on the 11th of January. It had plummeted further on the 12th of January and then, showed some minor signs of recovery on the 13th, however, overall, the effect of Twitter trying to police speech to the extent of banning the sitting President of USA had a real and tangible effect. Following the stock free-fall post ban on Donald Trump, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to Twitter to publish a long-winded thread explaining Twitter’s decision, without really explaining anything.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, starts the thread off by claiming that he takes no pleasure in his decision to ban President Donald Trump and further said that he was banned after “several warnings”. Further, he says that he believes the decision was correct. Taking the high moral ground, Jack Dorsey said that offline harm resulting from online words is what drives Twitter’s policy and “enforcement”.
I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
After banning the account of President Trump and a handful of his supporters, Jack said that banning accounts has ‘ramifications’. He further said that banning someone limits conversation, divides people and ‘sets a dangerous precedent’, essentially admitted that Twitter divided people and set a dangerous precedent.
Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
He says that the essence of ‘check and accountability’ on Twitter is the fact that the platform is a small part of the conversation happening on Twitter and thus if someone does not like their rules, they can ‘go elsewhere’. However, this was challenged last week when other companies too censored Donald Trump. Further, trying to shield himself after the Ugandan debacle where he admitted that certain tweets were censored ‘in coordination with peers’, says that the companies reached the conclusion to ban Trump on their own after being ’emboldened’ by others’ decisions.
This concept was challenged last week when a number of foundational internet tool providers also decided not to host what they found dangerous. I do not believe this was coordinated. More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
The arrogance in this part of the thread should not really be lost on anyone. Let us summarise what he has said so far before proceeding with the rest of his thread. He says:
- He took no pleasure in banning Donald Trump
- But he stands by the decision to ban Donald Trump
- His decision does set a dangerous precedent and divides people, but that is quite alright
- If people don’t like his rules and regulation, they are free to quit Twitter, even though he wades into being a publisher, far more than being an intermediary
- Last week, he received backlash and he is writing this thread not because he owes an explanation to anyone, but because others banned Trump too after Twitter, and thus, he can’t use argument number 4, where he said people can simply go elsewhere and Twitter will continue to brazen it out.
Now that we have decoded the chicanery of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey so far, we can move on.
Continuing to defend his actions while criticising his actions, he said that while it was necessary for him to ban Trump at this point in time, over a long period of time, his decision would prove to be destructive to the noble principles of free internet. He further said, “we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement. Yes, we need to look at how our service might incentivize distraction and harm. Yes, we need more transparency in our moderation operations. All this can’t erode a free and open global internet”.
Yes, we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement. Yes, we need to look at how our service might incentivize distraction and harm. Yes, we need more transparency in our moderation operations. All this can’t erode a free and open global internet.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
He ends his thread with a new initiative that will supposedly solve these issues but “will take time”. And then, ends his thread with ridiculous tropes like the aim is to promote “peaceful existence on earth”, as if, this was a thread to be recited at a beauty pageant.
I believe the internet and global public conversation is our best and most relevant method of achieving this. I also recognize it does not feel that way today. Everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
It becomes pertinent to point out here that throughout the thread, while Jack admits that his actions will have dangerous ramifications, he stands by them and ends with miss-world-esque tropes about world peace and one humanity. Nowhere does he actually offer a concrete answer as to why he took these unprecedented decisions that he admits fractured the society, in fact, he in one tweet says that those who do not like his terms and conditions can simply go elsewhere.
Hilariously, while Twitter talks about world peace and whatnot in this thread, only a day ago, the Ugandan President banned Facebook and Twitter for interfering in local elections and at the time, Twitter had cried ‘human rights’, right after they had admittedly ‘divided society and set a dangerous precedent’ by banning Trump.
The decision to ban social media companies comes as retaliation after Facebook had arbitrarily deleted some government-linked accounts.
Facebook claimed that it removed the accounts for seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of the election, adding that they were tied to the Ministry for Information and Technology. Uganda struck back at Facebook and Twitter by banning them from the internet after they started censoring Uganda officials ahead of the elections.
Following the decision to ban to social media apps, the President of Uganda Yoweri K Museveni said, “these platforms should be used equitably, if you want to take any parts, then you can’t operate in Uganda, because Uganda is our country, we can’t accept them to decide who is good and who is bad.”
“I apologize that the Government of Uganda has closed Facebook in Uganda, this is very unfortunate but inevitable. If they are to operate here, they have to be equitable,” President Museveni added.
Taking to Twitter, the Ugandan government said, “We demand that Facebook & Twitter write directly to the individuals that lost their accounts. Since Facebook cited MoICT of Uganda in their statement, let them write to us so that there’s a chance for a fair hearing. Accounts lost on Facebook belong to the Government of Uganda employees.
Perhaps if Jack Dorsey sticks to running an intermediary like Twitter, instead of turning into a publisher-cum-beauty-pageant-winner-cum-nanny-of-the-world, Twitter stocks would not fall and as an intermediary, Twitter would do its job just fine. If only.