Maybe we should cut Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, some slack.
At least he’s trying to be very careful, and transparent, about how Twitter should meet its social responsibilities in banning anti-social content on the site.
Last Friday, The New York Times
reporters got a rare look inside a Twitter policy meeting to address that challenge, “Inside Twitter’s Struggle Over What Gets Banned”
. The meeting followed Apple, Facebook and Google’s YouTube purging videos and podcasts from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Of course, the problem of the companies’ unique social responsibilities — concerning hate speech, fake news, user privacy and other troubling issues — has been festering for some time.
On Friday, it reached a new levl with the Alex Jones debacle. AP tech expert Barbara Ortutay offered a penetrating analysis of the companies’ dilemma: “Tech giants still stumbling in the social world they created
“. She makes the case that they are now “gatekeepers of discourse on their platforms, deciding what should and shouldn’t be allowed and often angering most everyone in the process.”
“… it’s particularly difficult for huge tech companies to balance public goods such as free speech with the need to protect their users from harassment, abuse, fake news and manipulation. Especially given that their business models require them to alienate as few of their users as possible, lest they put the flood of advertising money at risk.
” ‘ I don’t think the platforms in their heart of hearts would like to keep Alex Jones on’, said Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Stanford Law School. ‘But it’s difficult to come up with a principle to say why Alex Jones and not others would be removed.’ “
“While most companies have policies against ‘hate speech’, defining [emphasis added] what constitutes hate speech can be difficult, he added. Even governments have trouble with it. One country’s free speech is another country’s hate speech, punishable by jail time.”
Meanwhile, back at Twitter:
In the wake of a week of internal company soul searching on anti-social content, one of the 18 company attendees at the Friday meeting confessed:
“Please bear with me. This is incredibly complex.”