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Jack Dorsey breaks his silence after Trump ban

Twitter's CEO says the company made the right choice even if it sets a 'dangerous' precedent.
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
January 13, 2021
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Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and fin-tech firm Square, sits for a portrait during an interview with Reuters in London, Britain, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Toby Melville / Reuters

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made his first public statements since the company permanently banned Donald Trump from its platform. In a series of tweets, Dorsey said he believed Twitter made the correct decision, but that “a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

In his comments, Dorsey echoed Twitter’s previous statements on the reason for the ban, writing that “offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”

At the same time, Dorsey said that the ban also reflects “a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.” (Twitter has spent much of the last two years trying to figure out how to make its platform “healthier.”) He added that he feels Twitter’s decision has set a “dangerous” precedent that “an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

Dorsey also pushed back on criticism that the company is engaging in censorship, writing that “a company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access.” He also made clear that Twitter did not coordinate with other companies who have also banned or suspended Trump in recent days. 

You can read his full comments below: 

“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? 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. 

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. Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation. 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. Yes, we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement. Yes, we need to look 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.

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. We are trying to do our part by funding an initiative around an open decentralized standard for social media. Our goal is to be a client of that standard for the public conversation layer of the internet. We call it @bluesky. 

This will take time to build. We are in the process of interviewing and hiring folks, looking at both starting a standard from scratch or contributing to something that already exists. No matter the ultimate direction, we will do this work completely through public transparency. It’s important that we acknowledge this is a time of great uncertainty and struggle for so many around the world. Our 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. I believe the internet and global public conversation is our best and most relevant method of achieving this. I also recognize it does not feel that way today. Everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together.”

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