Twitter has been criticised for years for not doing enough (or not doing anything, some will argue) to fix abuse and trolling on the platform. Misogyny is particular has arguably been fanned, not quelled, on Twitter.
While other platforms have moved in lockstep and banned or removed content from Alex Jones of Infowars in recent days, Twitter found itself under pressure to do the same – and yesterday it served Jones with a seven-day suspension for violating its rules.
This is all a hugely thorny issue. Some regard Jones as a dangerous and divisive conspiracy theorist, whipping up hatred on a daily basis; others regard him as a teller of uncomfortable truths and increasingly a martyr for the alt-right. Within all this is rolling debate about free speech, power without responsibility, no-platforming, fake news, the “right” to “offend” and the First Amendment.
Now Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey has joined the debate (some will argue far too late) in an interview with The Washington Post. He says he is rethinking how core parts of the platform work and experimenting with features that could reduce echo chambers (something all social platforms, due to their algorithms around engagement, are guilty of creating) and push alternative viewpoints that address misinformation.
“The most important thing that we can do is we look at the incentives that we’re building into our product,” he said. “Because they do express a point of view of what we want people to do – and I don’t think they are correct anymore.”
With regard to accounts spreading misinformation, Dorsey implied a full ban would not happen, but rather the platform could provide more context, including “tweets that call it out as obviously fake” which could help people “make judgments for themselves”.
Asked about President Trump and his, let’s say, cavalier approach to social media, Dorsey suggested he would be the exception to many of these proposed changes. He regarded Trump’s tweets as newsworthy (trans: they drive enormous traffic) and reveal how “global leaders think and treat the people around them”. At this point you can reach for the “character rubbing its chin emoji”.