Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been making the rounds in mainstream media outlets in recent weeks, trying to address concerns that the social media giant may be targeting or even censoring conservative viewpoints. The platform has been plagued by criticisms in recent weeks following the decision to temporarily ban far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as well as accusations levied by President Trump on Twitter itself.
“Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.” The president tweeted recently. “Shadow banning” is a term used to describe blocking a users content from being seen by others in a way that’s not easy to spot. A traditional ban would see the user aware that they can no longer post on the platform, but a “shadow ban” would involve using less visible means to curtail the organic reach of the content.
Dorsey recently appeared on CNN to engage with these accusations, though he did acknowledge that his own politics, as well as the politics of much of his staff, all lean to the Left side of the ideological spectrum.
“The real question behind the question is, ‘Are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints?’ And we are not. Period,” Dorsey said of the President’s accusations. “We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior.”
“We need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is more left-leaning,” he went on. “And I think it’s important to articulate our own bias and to share it with people so that people understand us. But we need to remove our bias from how we act and our policies and our enforcement.”
Dorsey’s statements come in a time when social media platforms, and the immense power they wield over content distribution, and as a result, American perceptions, are under increasing scrutiny. Facebook, Apple and YouTube all recently banned the aforementioned Alex Jones over a series of inflammatory statements that he’s made in the course of his show, though some have pointed out that Jones has been making similar statements for years, and it wasn’t until distasteful comments he made years ago about the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting became a “trending outrage” on social media that any of these companies chose to do anything about it. Some have argued that these social media platforms serve as community spaces, and are therefore subject to first amendment protections, however, as corporations these platforms do retain the right to deny access to individuals they see as violating their standards and practices.
Adding fuel to the social media fire, Dorsey also recently took to his own social media platform to call on journalists to engage with and refute fake news they see shared across the site; a recommendation many journalists scoffed at. Dorsey received a number of responses from journalists and others criticizing his strategy of outsourcing such an undertaking to professionals that already find themselves increasingly under fire in the social media sphere.
However, since then, Dorsey seems to have adopted a tone that acknowledges that Twitter’s practices (and potential success or failure) remain his responsibility.
“I think people see a faceless corporation … They don’t assume that humans are in it, or that they’re genuine or authentic,” he said. “They just assume based on what the output is. And that’s on us. That’s on me.”