Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey on Friday gathered with 18 colleagues, including the safety team, to debate ways to make the social media service safer for its users. The discussion quickly turned to how to rid the site of “dehumanising” speech, even if it did not violate Twitter’s rules, which forbid direct threats of violence and some forms of hate speech but do not prohibit deception or misinformation.
Twitter asked that members of its safety team not be identified, for fear of them becoming targeted by Internet trolls.
For about an hour, the group tried to get a handle on what constituted dehumanising speech. At one point, Mr. Dorsey wondered if there was a technological solution. There was no agreement on an answer.
The discussion capped a difficult week for Twitter. For the past five days, the company has been embroiled in internal conversations about how to evolve and explain its policies for what can and cannot be posted on its site. The debates were urgent, fuelled by criticism against Twitter for its lack of action against the posts from the far-right conspiracy site InfoWars and its creator, Alex Jones.
Banning Alex Jones
While Apple, Facebook and Google’s YouTube this week purged videos and podcasts from Mr. Jones and InfoWars, Twitter let the content remain on its site. In a string of tweets on Tuesday, Mr. Dorsey said Twitter would not ban Mr. Jones or InfoWars because they had not violated the company’s rules.
In the aftermath, many of Twitter’s users and own employees heaped ire on Mr. Dorsey and the company.
On Friday, to provide more transparency about its decision making, Twitter invited two
New York Times
reporters to attend the policy meeting. During the one-hour gathering, a picture emerged of a 12-year-old company still struggling to keep up with the complicated demands of being an open and neutral communications platform that brings together world leaders, celebrities, journalists, political activists and conspiracy theorists.
Even settling on a definition of dehumanising speech was not easy. By the meeting’s end, Mr. Dorsey and his executives had agreed to draft a policy about dehumanising speech and open it to the public for their comments.
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Dorsey, 41, said he was “OK with people not agreeing” with his decision to keep Mr. Jones’s account live.
But Mr. Dorsey also said that while Twitter’s long-time guiding principle has been free expression, the company is now discussing “that safety should come first”.
Debate on immigration
In Friday’s meeting at Twitter, the 18 attendees debated topics including whether tweets that disparaged immigrants could be considered dehumanising. One executive insisted that it was important for Twitter to enable debate about immigration policy.
“Immigration is a really valid political debate in many countries around the world and I think we want to make sure we protect the ability of people to say things like, ‘Immigration has affected my community. My local factory employs different people now; I can’t get a job.’” said Nick Pickles, a policy strategist. Any new rules also had to allow victims of rape to openly discuss their experience online, Ms. Harvey said. In an interview afterwards, Mr. Dorsey said he was contemplating broader changes, including “systemic” solutions that aren’t a “one-off.”
But those conversations, he said, have not been “explicit.” Twitter is early in the process, he said. “We’ll talk more,” he said.NY Times
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