Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made his first public statements since the company permanently banned Donald Trump from its platform. In a series of tweets, Dorsey said he believed Twitter made the correct decision, but that “a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.
Dorsey agreed that Trump had crossed a line drawn when Twitter temporarily suspended his account with a warning that further violations would result in a permanent ban.
In his comments Dorsey echoed Twitter’s previous statements on the reason for the ban, writing that “offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”
At the same time, Dorsey said that the ban also reflects “a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.” (Twitter has spent much of the last two years trying to figure out how to make its platform ‘healthier.’) He added that he feels Twitter’s decision has set a ‘dangerous’ precedent that ‘an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.’
Dorsey also said that “a company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access.” He also made clear that Twitter did not coordinate with other companies who have also banned or suspended Trump in recent days.
Here is a portion of his comments:
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter. Was this correct? 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.
That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us. 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. The check and accountability on this power has always been the fact that a service like Twitter is one small part of the larger public conversation happening across the internet.
If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service. 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. This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same. 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.“