On Thursday, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, released a thread explaining that the service would begin censoring accounts and rejiggering algorithms in order to “increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.” Here’s what he said:
This is, to put it mildly, Orwellian doublespeak.
The terms of service at Twitter have already been used in disparate ways based on the political opinions being voiced. Disgusting racism emanating from the alt-right has been targeted by Twitter; racism coming from the radical Left has been largely ignored. Nasty users on the alt-right have had their verification stripped, as though user fraud is fine so long as Twitter doesn’t like you. Just as with Facebook and Google, supposedly unbiased algorithms have turned out to be biased in practice.
Beyond this, it’s obvious that Twitter’s attempts to promote “healthy” conversation are bound to fail. Different opinions create controversy. They always will. Unless you’re willing to ban all of those who are most uncivil about politics – and usually, those people are also the ones who should most be exposed to different opinions – you’re going to have a flamewar. That’s fine. That’s how free speech works. Outlets that prize civility over harsh conversation are destined for the dustbin. It has always been so.
The problem with our political conversation isn’t Twitter. It’s us. And Twitter’s desire for a more virtuous system – i.e. top-down system — isn’t going to make us more virtuous as a people. In fact, it will make politics more contentious, given that Twitter’s leadership finds people like Deray McKesson absolutely anodyne. People on the right will correctly sense that they are being targeted, and they will rebel. And that will make the conversation far worse.