Has Twitter ever taken a neutral stance before?
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in an interview last week that the company could no longer “afford to take a neutral stance anymore.”
He made this statement after being asked by podcaster Sam Harris why Twitter’s bans and suspensions always seem to “reliably land[s] on one side of the political divide.”
He pointed out that progressive feminist Megan Murphy – who is no friend to conservatives – was banned for tweeting that “Men are not women” and asking, “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between men and transwomen?” yet unapologetic anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan is still allowed on the platform.
“I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance anymore. I don’t believe that we should optimize for neutrality,” Dorsey said immediately.
Later in the podcast, Dorsey mentioned the Murphy ban again, saying, “The case you brought up. I’m not sure what was behind that, but I certainly don’t believe it was that one tweet.” He added that most people who are punished by the platform were repeat offenders.
Dorsey, according to NewsBusters, also dodged a question about the First Amendment. Harris had asked him why Twitter couldn’t just ban actual violent speech, but allow all other forms of speech, even those many vehemently disagree with. Dorsey said Twitter’s policies follow “the spirit of” the First Amendment.
Dorsey also didn’t seem willing to answer a question about why organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas — both designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. — could continue to operate on Twitter while alt-right commenters were banned completely.
“Dorsey stated that Twitter could be impartial by having a list of rules, explaining the consequences for breaking the rules, and installing an appeals system that actually worked,” wrote Newsbusters’ Corinne Weaver.
While that seems like an obvious way to go, Dorsey doubled down on his aversion to “neutrality.”
“Ultimately, I don’t think we can be this neutral, passive platform anymore,” he said, without any hint of irony.
Twitter has never been impartial or neutral. Conservatives and right-leaning people have always borne the brunt of Twitter’s ever-changing policies. Before Dorsey spoke to Harris, Twitter claimed that “learn to code” on its own wouldn’t get someone banned – it had to be part of a targeted harassment campaign. But since that announcement, users have uploaded screenshots of their accounts getting suspended for using the phrase in a single tweet.
Twitter is also known for retroactively applying new policies. After “deadnaming” — the act of using a transgender person’s given name and not the name they chose for themselves — was banned, people were sent notices to delete years-old tweets or face suspension.
For what its worth, it doesn’t seem like Dorsey is aware of at least some of the social justice policies spreading at his company. When Harris asked him about deadnaming he said he didn’t “know the exact specifics of that policy.”