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Twitter's Jack Dorsey defends controversial decision to ban Donald Trump

Dorsey said online speech can cause a lot of offline harm, driving Twitter's policy enforcement decisions.

What you need to know

  • Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump last week in the wake of an insurrection in the US Capitol.
  • In a thread on the platform, CEO Jack Dorsey defended the decision.
  • Saying he did not take pride in the action, he dubbed it a result of Twitter's failure to "promote healthy conversation".

Last week, following an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, social media services moved to limit reach on the President's posts. While Trump faced bans from services as varied as Spotify and Shopify, the most tangible was the permanent suspension levied against his Twitter account. The President had been a high-profile user of the platform over the years, often using it to communicate to the world at large over traditional press conferences and drafted statements.

Dorsey has taken to Twitter to defend the decision, one which has seen its fair share of critics. Some argue the ban came too late, others argue it shouldn't have come at all, while others yet call for unlimited free speech on the social media platform.

In his thread, Dorsey said that while he did not take pride in the decision, he believed it was the right one taken to prevent real public harm based on the best information he had at the time, adding:

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.

Twitter has in recent months tried to get users to be more positive and thoughtful in their engagement. The company added a notice warning users to read articles before they retweeted or commented on them. It even added new labels when replying to tweets from people you don't follow, letting users know how much they had in common in an effort to foster a sense of camaraderie. Despite that, users on the platform remained as excitable as ever, hence Dorsey's statement on a need for reflection.

While Twitter was within its rights to ban the President over repeated violations of the spirit and text of their rules, Dorsey noted that having other social media networks all ban him at the same time strained the notion that one could simply just leave Twitter for an alternate platform if they didn't like its rules.

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.

Ultimaely, he believes the solution is a more decentralized social media platform, saying that "[his] goal in this moment is to disarm as much as we can, and ensure we are all building towards a greater common understanding, and a more peaceful existence on earth."

You can read the full thread for Dorsey's unfiltered thoughts over on Twitter.

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