It might have sounded promising when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that the social media platform would not be banning Alex Jones as YouTube, Apple, Spotify and Facebook did because he has not technically violated any of their rules.
However, something much worse could be in the works as reports have emerged that the company is planning to change its speech policies and considering punishing users for “off-platform behavior.” In other words, Twitter will be monitoring the things that users do and say outside of the site and punishing them accordingly.
Speaking to Sean Hannity on his radio show on Wednesday, Dorsey said: “We look at off-platform behavior as well. At things that aren’t just happening on Twitter, but happening on other platforms or in the real world.”
In fact, this approach isn’t new; it’s something Twitter has been doing since last December. At that time, it was announced that verified users whose offline behavior wasn’t consistent with their rules would lose their verification badges. To illustrate this, the Verge explained how a verified Twitter user who posted nothing but kitten pictures on the platform but was organizing Nazi rallies for a living would lose their verification badge – but they’d still be allowed to tweet. It’s not clear how they are keeping tabs on people’s real-world activity, but the notion is more than a little unsettling to many people.
It was also announced at the same time that the platform would be monitoring user names, profile bios, and display names for hate speech.
Dorsey added that when dealing with reports of hate speech, they consider not only the relevant past activities of a user on Twitter but also the conversation’s “cultural context.” He also pointed out that users can deal with offensive posts by simply opting not to follow those whose views they find upsetting.
Dorsey had appeared levelheaded in his initial response to the Jones drama, tweeting: “If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.”
Impartiality doesn’t seem to carry much weight among Twitter’s employee base, however. Twitter engineer Marina Zhao responded: “There is no honor in resisting ‘outside pressure’, just to pat ourselves on the back for being ‘impartial.’”
Another engineer, Mike Cvet, said that consistently enforcing policies, whether you agree with them or not, is “a good thing” but he feels those policies need to be revised.
Dorsey now appears to be responding to the segment of employees who have expressed unhappiness that Twitter isn’t getting on board the censorship train of its contemporaries. To Cvet’s tweet outlining this view, Dorsey replied that he wasn’t happy with where their policies are either and that work was being done to “evolve” them – presumably to make it easier to ban users on the grounds of policy violation.
Alex Jones is a polarizing figure, but even those who disagree with him must be concerned about the recent turn of events because once social media platforms start banning people like him, mainstream conservatives are almost certain to be next on the chopping block.
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