Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says company was ‘probably way too aggressive’ in banning right-wing activists

Company has been repeatedly criticised over its decisions to ban or not ban some of its users

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 06 March 2019 09:29
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Twitter CEO says he was too aggressive about banning right wingers

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey said the company has been too aggressive in banning right-wing activists from the site, despite some of them apparently being connected to harassment campaigns.

Mr Dorsey and his company have been repeatedly criticised over the decisions it makes around who should stay on Twitter and who should be banned. Activists on both the left and the right have accused the site of hosting extremists, and having either too strict or too weak policies on banning users from the site.

Now he has taken to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast for an interview with the comedian, during which he suggested the company could be more lenient with such bans in the future.

The interview with Joe Rogan followed a previous discussion on the podcast, in early February, when Jack Dorsey appeared on his own. Various right-wing activists such as conspiracy theorist and friend of Rogan, Alex Jones, said the interview had been too easy on the Twitter boss and that he should have been asked about growing controversies around who is being banned from the site.

This time around, Jack Dorsey appeared with Twitter's most senior legal officer and was asked a series of questions about why and how it was deciding to ban people from the site.

The discussion largely centred around a recent phenomenon that saw numerous people tweet the phrase "learn to code" at journalists who had recently been made redundant. Many of those tweeting it claimed it was simply a meme – but it was linked with death threats and harassment and led to many people that posted the words being banned from the site.

Asked about why the site was banning people who were tweeting the phrase, Mr Dorsey said the company had done research on the phenomenon. It found there were "thousands and thousands" of tweets being directed at a small number of journalists – and that many of those sending them were accounts that had been created to evade a ban.

Twitter's chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde went on to explain more of the conclusions of that research, and how the phrase appeared to be part of what the company calls a "pile-on", during which a vast volume of tweets are sending to one person. She defended the fact that many of the people posting those tweets had been kicked off Twitter, because many of them were being used alongside harassment and threats.

But Mr Dorsey then said that the bans may have been a mistake. The bans were probably the consequence of "our team having a lack of context into what's happening as well", he said, and went on to say that Twitter "would fully admit we were probably way too aggressive when we first saw this, as well".

Ms Gadde then said the company had "a lot more work to do" to explain its decisions, and to look into any "mistakes" it had made when it was suspending particular people.

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