Remember, reviewing Jones’ posts on a daily basis is nowhere in the job description of any company leader. It’s the job of faceless contractors making 5,000 decisions a day. So it makes sense that a critical mass of angry users could flag violations that had previously gone overlooked. And it makes sense that Zuckerberg and Dorsey would prefer to wait for that process to play out, thus preserving the façade of objectivity, than to ban him by fiat.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and other Republicans probably won’t buy Dorsey’s claim that he tries to keep his biases out of the company’s decision-making, particularly the next time an Alex Jones gets the boot. Nor will most liberals believe that he isn’t bending over backward to appease the hard right, especially the next time an Alex Jones isn’t ejected from the platform. When a company that shapes the flow of online political speech is making high-stakes decisions about who can talk and who can’t, it’s hard to accept that those decisions are the product of a jury-rigged rulebook or algorithm rather than political calculations or a secret agenda.
But it’s worth remembering, with these controversies, that social media companies do have an agenda, and it isn’t secret. Their agenda is to keep making money, and when it comes to high-stakes decisions about who can say what online, the most lucrative option is often to play dumb.