In a lengthy series of tweets on Wednesday, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey set out to explain what prompted his decision last week to ban the account of one of Twitter's most popular users: Donald Trump. Sure, attempted insurrection played a part, and it was "an extraordinary and untenable circumstance," but Dorsey also said that the ban represents "a failure of ours ultimately to promote health conversation."
Dorsey suggests the move was the right one "for Twitter" before going on to punt BlueSky, a "decentralized standard for social media" that uses the same sort of blockchain technology that underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Just when we thought the first two weeks of what's shaping up to be an even longer year than 2020 couldn't get any stranger.
No pride — "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?" Dorsey asked on his Twitter account.
"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."
Dorsey adds, "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."
Too much power — Dorsey acknowledges that his company's decision to permanently ban Trump, "[S]ets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation." And that the slew of other service providers and platforms that have since banned the outgoing President makes it more difficult to simply suggest he take his rhetoric — and supporters — elsewhere.
He at least acknowledges that Twitter needs to "[L]ook critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement." Further, it needs to "[L]ook 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."
Bitcoin, baby! — "The reason I have so much passion for #Bitcoin is largely because of the model it demonstrates: a foundational internet technology that is not controlled or influenced by any single individual or entity. This is what the internet wants to be, and over time, more of it will be," Dorsey says, before going on to enthuse about something called "Bluesky," which he describes as "an open decentralized standard for social media." Dorsey says he hopes that Twitter will eventually be a client of Bluesky.
While we admire Dorsey's commitment to the noble principles he and the rest of the make-the-world-a-better-place crowd always turn to in times of crisis (or abject failure) we can't help but feel like it's a distraction from the task at hand: making it more difficult for extremists to congregate, organize, and plan the sorts of nightmarish scenarios we saw play out next week.
We need social networks that will be arbiters of truth, which realize the power they wield and choose to wield it responsibly, and which will engage in the crucial business of outing racists, hatemongers, and insurrectionists, not giving them safe spaces and echo chambers that embolden them.
Blue-sky thinking is great when you're a billionaire who considered spending half a year "in Africa" while still ostensibly helming two companies, but for the rest of us, we need the neo-Nazis disarmed and publicly shamed, please and thank you.