Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted this week that his company had been “terrible at explaining our decisions in the past.” And judging by the platform’s response to recent calls to ban Alex Jones, communication is a problem Dorsey and Twitter have yet to fix.
After Apple, Google and Facebook all banned the conspiracy theorist earlier this week, Twitter has struggled to explain why it remains the sole major social network that allows Jones and his Infowars website to use its platform.
Dorsey’s first explanation — delivered in a blog post and a series of tweets — explained that Twitter’s rules are a living document, subject to change. This faced a significant backlash, especially from journalists who Dorsey said should fact-check each of Jones’ lies.
This line also received pushback from current and former Twitter employees.
Emily Horne, who until recently headed up Twitter’s policy communications, called him out for blaming her department for the problems.
“Please don’t blame the current state of play on communications. These decisions aren’t easy, but they aren’t comms calls and it’s unhelpful to denigrate your colleagues whose credibility will help explain them,” Horne tweeted.
Dorsey responded by saying he wasn’t blaming the communications team — yet it wouldn’t be the first time the CEO has pointed his finger at that department following a PR blunder.
Last November, when Twitter backtracked on why it hadn’t removed anti-Muslim videos from the platform, Dorsey appeared to blame the publicity team for saying the wrong thing.
Mike Cevt, a current Twitter engineer, also hit out at Dorsey. He said: “It is impossible to promote healthy dialog with bad-faith actors, who regularly produce toxic, dangerous and demonstrably false conspiracy theories; the objective of which is to mislead, radicalize, divide.”
Dorsey appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show later Wednesday, where Fox News’ resident conspiracy theorist praised Dorsey for not removing the online conspiracy theorist Jones. During the interview, the Twitter CEO also attempted to convince Hannity that conservative groups were not being shadow-banned on his network.
After the interview, it was still unclear why Jones was still able to tweet. In stepped Twitter’s head of safety, Del Harvey, to further muddy the waters.
She emailed all twitter employees with a memo about the situation, saying Jones had not been banned because many of his worst remarks on the platform were made before Twitter’s new harassment policies were put in place. If he posted the same content now, he would be penalized, Harvey said.
Harvey added that Twitter is now fast-tracking an update to its policy that “focuses on addressing dehumanizing speech — that is, speech that treats or describes others as less than human.”
The new policy appears to be an attempt to give Twitter the power to ban accounts such as Jones and Infowars, but it remains unclear when the new policy will come into force. Harvey said the company had “a goal of having a recommendation for a path forward for staff review by mid-September.”
Cover image: Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer and co-founder of Square Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)