If Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey really wants the controversy over liberal bias on his platform and suppression of conservative voices to go away, perhaps the first thing he should do is stop talking about it. I only say this because every time he attempts to defend his company from such charges, all he manages to do is further confirm everyone’s suspicions. That certainly seems to be what happened yesterday when he agreed to talk to CNN and the question of the bias monster was raised yet again. And true to form, his answers were… less than compelling. (The Hill, emphasis added)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said on Saturday that he “fully admit[s]” Twitter employees share a largely left-leaning bias after facing accusations that conservatives are discriminated against on the social media platform.
In an interview that aired Saturday on CNN, Dorsey said his company has a responsibility to be open about its political viewpoints, but to operate without bias when applying content policies to users.
“We need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is…is more left-leaning,” Dorsey says. “But the real question behind the question is, are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints? And we are not. Period,” he added.
Dorsey went on to insist that his company only polices behavior on the platform, not content.
I’m sorry, but… what? So his team is absolutely not (“period”) “doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints.” Okay, then what are the guidelines for when you are “doing something,” Jack? This word salad becomes even more roughly tossed when he goes on to claim that Twitter polices “behavior… not content.”
That doesn’t even mean anything. We’re talking about Twitter. And just like Facebook or Instagram, the content is the behavior. There isn’t anything else to go by. These are open publishing platforms where users post content of various types. They can’t literally come jumping out of a Tweetdeck screen and punch you in the nose.
And the fact remains that the policies Twitter puts in place as to who they bring the hammer down on simply cannot be separated from ideology given how they are implemented. You can toss around words like hate, threatening, intolerant and all the rest as much as you like. But if someone tweeting that they think gender is defined by your chromosomal structure can be banned for hate speech, but someone else calling for people to physically confront and threaten administration officials in restaurants is just exercising free speech, then you’ve got a bias problem. It all comes down to how you define the words which spell out the policy.
This is the same nonsense we previously heard when the subject of shadow banning came up. Ed Morrissey picked up the fly in the ointment back in July. At that point, Twitter decided to address the question of shadow banning on their blog. The official statement was put out by Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead, along with Kayvon Beykpour, Product Lead of Twitter and Co-Founder of Periscope. Do they shadow ban people? Of course not, they said. But they then went on to say, “You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
If you follow someone on Twitter and they tweet something but none of their followers can see it in their timelines, instead needing to open up their profile and request their list of tweets, that’s shadow banning. It’s sort of the definition of the phrase. And it’s not happening at random or by accident. There’s either some person or some algorithm flagging accounts so the tweets don’t display in the default timelines of followers. That’s like saying of course they don’t kill puppies. Sure, they might tie some puppies up in burlap bags and dump them in the river, but if they happen to die, that’s the water’s fault.
And if you’re not shadow banning at all, why would you follow that statement up by saying, “And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology?” There’s no rational way to interpret all of this obfuscation other than to conclude that these Twitter executives are lying right to our faces. The problem is that they’re not very good at it. And Jack’s interview with CNN has done absolutely nothing to clear the air or instill any greater amount of trust.