Twitter and Dorsey Get It Right on Infowars

Jack Dorsey/PHOTO: magerleagues (CC)

Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey have come under criticism on this Web site and others over past efforts to censor conservatives, but in the high-profile case this week with provocateur Alex Jones and his organization Infowars, Twitter didn’t go along with the mob (Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Pinterest and Spotify) and boot him from their social media platform.

It doesn’t appear that Twitter has necessarily seen the light, as it still shadow bans conservatives (a charge that Dorsey has denied), but the CEO’s explanation for not taking out Infowars articulated principles that the other tech companies should heed.

Saying that Infowars “hasn’t violated our rules” and that Twitter “wouldn’t succumb and simply react to outside pressure” (like the group thinkers at Facebook, YouTube, etc. obviously did), Dorsey then put the onus for holding Jones and company accountable on others.

“Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors,” Dorsey tweeted, “so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly to people can form their own opinions.”

Bottom line message from Dorsey to the media: Do your jobs.

Some reporters didn’t like that idea.

“What is it that you think journalists do? Spend all day combing Twitter to fact check Alex Jones?” asked Cecilia Kang, a New York Times tech reporter, in response to Dorsey. “That’s good for Twitter but not for democracy.”

But the legacy media mob thought Infowars was newsworthy enough to get Jones banned everywhere else — so how about reporting the offenses that allegedly got him removed? Those specifics are hard to find on the Web.

Instead all media organizations have done is uncritically report that Infowars broke the rules, not how or why they were broken, so readers can decide how legitimate they are. After all, these social media companies depend on their policing by their “communities,” which usually means that leftists report language or videos that offend their delicate sensibilities. When there are enough complaints (“strikes”) against an “offending” party such as Infowars, Facebook, YouTube and the like suspend them — or even outright ban them.

Jones has been ostracized for being a conspiracy theorist, for using “hate” speech, for “dehumanizing language” against transgenders, Muslims and immigrants, and for glorifying violence — as Facebook explained.

“When it comes to our Community Standards, they’re focused on keeping people safe,” the company said. “If you post something that goes against our standards, which cover things like hate speech that attacks or dehumanizes others, we will remove it from Facebook.”

It’s fine to have standards – no one wants pornography, graphic violence, or emotional torture distributed unfettered. But it’s also necessary to be transparent, especially since Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have a lengthy track record of hostility towards conservative ideology. Otherwise cries of “hate” and “racist” from the bloodthirsty progressives win the day, and they receive no scrutiny of their potentially false claims.

Dorsey – who attempted to mitigate the damaging accusations of shadow banning in a surprise phone call to Sean Hannity’s radio program on Wednesday – admitted as much. According to Breitbart, he “admitted Twitter’s failure to be transparent about the reasons for banning accounts and deleting content, and pledged to communicate those reasons in future.”

“In the past we did not communicate why we would take actions on tweets, or why we might suspend temporarily or permanently,” Dorsey told Hannity. “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.”

That would be refreshing if all the social media companies had more specific explanations for their disciplinary actions, because right now all users get is an email from a bot that says the equivalent of “you have been suspended for violating our terms of use.” No recourse, no ability to plead your case with an actual human being.

Ultimately the best solution for countering objections to the likes of Infowars — or anyone who “offends” — is for the larger social media community (all users) to append their responses and refutations to tweets (or Facebook posts, or YouTube videos) that they don’t like or agree with. In fact, that’s already happening, and average users usually do a much better job of it than any “journalist” these days. Just look at the thousands of responses to President Trump’s tweets every day, for example.

It’s called free speech and debate – protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.