Twitter's Jack Dorsey: 'We are not' discriminating against any political viewpoint

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey knows the tech world has a problem. He's asking big questions like "How do we earn p...

Posted: Aug 20, 2018 7:18 PM
Updated: Aug 20, 2018 7:18 PM

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey knows the tech world has a problem. He's asking big questions like "How do we earn peoples' trust?"

"We realize that more and more people have fear of companies like ours," Dorsey said in an in-depth interview with CNN. He cited the "perceived power that companies like ours have over how they live and even think every single day."

The following day, President Trump proved his point.

"Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won't let that happen," the president tweeted Saturday morning.

Trump is tapping into a widely held belief on the right about biased tech companies. The claims have even become an issue on the campaign trail. "They are trying to silence us" is the new rallying cry.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter say they understand the perception, but deny that their algorithms and employees discriminate against any particular political point of view.

"Are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints? We are not. Period," Dorsey said Friday. "We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior."

But he knows some people do not believe him.

"I think we need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left, is more left-leaning," Dorsey said.

"We need to remove all bias from how we act and our policies and our enforcement and our tools," he added.

>> Listen to the full interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the "Reliable Sources" podcast. Check it out via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or TuneIn.

In the interview, Dorsey kept coming back to the need for transparency, in much the same way that journalists talk about trying to explain news media processes to readers. Tech companies, he said, need to explain themselves too.

"I'll fully admit that I haven't done enough of that," he said. "I haven't done enough of, like, articulating my own personal objectives with this service and my own personal objectives in the world."

Dorsey spoke candidly about the "fear" people feel about Silicon Valley.

When asked "Do you feel as powerful as they think you are?" Dorsey said no, "but I do understand the sentiment. I do understand how actions by us could generate more fear, and I think the only way we can disarm that is by being a lot more open, explaining in a straightforward way why we make decisions, how we make decisions."

His bottom line: "We need to be reflective of the service that we're trying to build."

Trump, of course, is one of Twitter's highest-profile users. His Saturday morning tweets about censorship lined up closely with Tucker Carlson's Friday night segment titled "Coordinated censorship by big tech." Carlson cited the recent actions against far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

"Increasingly the people in charge use technology to silence criticism, mostly of them," Carlson said.

To hear Carlson and other conservative commentators tell it, Twitter and its peers are quashing dissent on a daily basis.

Trump tweeted that "they are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others."

Trump did not mention Jones or Twitter specifically. But Jones has been in the news lately because CNN and other outlets have been highlighting how his social media posts violated the rules of Twitter and other sites.

On Wednesday, Twitter placed some of Jones' accounts on a one-week time-out.

Many observers have been skeptical about whether a temporary suspension will actually be effective against Jones.

When asked about that in Friday's interview, Dorsey said "I don't know" if Jones will change his offensive behavior.

"We have evidence that shows that temporary suspensions, temporary lockouts will change behavior. It will change peoples' approach. I'm not naïve enough to believe that it's going to change it for everyone, but it's worth a shot," he said.

More importantly, he added, Twitter has to be "consistent with our enforcement."

"We can't just keep changing" the rules "randomly, based on our viewpoints, because that just adds to the fear of companies like ours -- making these judgments, according to our own personal views of who we like and who we don't like -- and taking that out upon those people. Those viewpoints change over time," he said. "And that just feels random and it doesn't feel fair and it doesn't earn anyone's trust because you can't actually see what's behind it."

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