Merry Last Christmas, Jack Dorsey

Mike Monteiro:

Among the changes, swastikas are now banned from Twitter. That's a good move. I applaud it, and it's beyond time. However, the Confederate flag, a hate symbol that defines one race's desire to own another race, is still acceptable. Twitter's reason is that the Confederate flag is historical. But so is the swastika. This decision seems less based on principles, but more on a desire to not piss off a certain group.

Despite their sanctimonious appeal to "principles", Twitter appears to be making decisions based on who they're afraid to (or can't afford to) piss off and then backwards engineering the rationale to make it palatable. That's not principled. That's cynical.

The new policy also allows a thinly veiled loophole for Trump:

This policy does not apply to military or government entities and we will consider exceptions for groups that are currently engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution.

For all his promises about wanting to reduce the amount of hate and violence and harassment on the platform, Jack Dorsey has purposely built in a loophole for the biggest perpetrator of all those things. That's not principled. It's cowardly. And it's dangerous. [...]

As of this writing, despite Twitter's new anti-harassment rules, Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, Joey Gibson, and David Duke are still on the platform. All known fascists. Ta-Nehisi Coates is not. Driven off by Richard Spencer's harassment. These are the voices we are losing because Jack Dorsey has chosen not to act. And it is probably too late. That's not hyperbolic. Jack has given Donald Trump the fuse to light a nuclear war. Jack has given Trump's minions the fuse to silence the voices America most needs at this moment. And Silicon Valley has allowed this to happen because their libertarian allegiance doesn't extend beyond their own pricks.

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18 Responses:

  1. Barry Kelly says:

    I have to say, I'm not a fan of encouraging corporations to police political speech, even when it's abhorrent. That sword cuts both ways; sooner or later you end up with speech that offends nobody, that is brand safe throughout. And that's not a libertarian argument, it's an anti-fascist argument. Fascism means everybody moving together with one purpose against the enemy. It's bad even when it's an enemy we don't like.

    • rc says:

      This slippery slope argument is always so frustrating. This is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Don't water down nazis as "political speech" and Trump as someone "we don't like".

      Nazis are people who, at "best" (e.g. Richard Spencer), advocate for the genocide of peoples for who they are and, at worse (i.e. Nazis in Nazi Germany), actually go out and set such genocide in motion.

      If we get to a bridge where we're discussing the risks of policing grey area topics such as, for example, the Republican or Democrat parties or capitalism vs. socialism, then fine. That sword can cut both ways, the speech must be allowed, etc.

      But this is about Nazis and Trump. Both want to curb the freedom of specific peoples, or to remove or silence them. The bridge of "Should they have a platform?" is so extremely black-and-white that it shouldn't warrant debate. Why is this so hard?

      • Barry Kelly says:

        I'm not worried about Nazis. I am worried about fascists. I'm concerned, because so few people know what fascism feels like: it feels like family, teamwork, belonging, mission and purpose. Fascism feels good, fun. It seems like a good thing; people don't recognize it when they get caught up in it.

        • Barry Kelly says:

          This isn't an argument I want to get sucked into right now though. I will add that Bush II was a big fan of the Manichean worldview. Tread carefully when you see the world as black and white, or you'll turn into what you despise.

          That's it from me. My piece has been said.

      • tfb says:

        The article is not really about Nazis using twitter. If it was just about Nazis there might, possibly, be some way that someone could argue the freedom of speech case and be right (well, no, there isn't any way they could be right, but they could at least argue the case).

        What it's actually about is an obviously senile president using twitter to work himself into such an agitated frenzy that he will start a nuclear war, in which millions and possibly billions of people will die. There is no freedom-of-speech argument for this: if your platform is being used by someone to try to start a nuclear war then shut it down.

        • commentator says:

          What does Trump's Twitter have to do with nuclear war?

          • tfb says:

            Did you read the title of the article and wonder what it meant? Even better: did you read the article, all the way to the end?

      • Rich says:

        Exactly. This isn't about "what if they later choose to silence speech about $X?" where X= a range of icky or divisive topics like sexual assault, abortion, testicular cancer, etc. This is about now, what if they choose to allow actual Nazis and wannabe slavers to have a platform for their cause and in so doing effectively silence the movement toward a more equal society, at least on that same platform?

        To switch the topic to generalisms is cowardly at best, and supportive of Nazis at worst.

    • Web Guy says:

      Free speech is great, but try looking at the glass as half-full. Every time a Twitter account closes, an angel gets its wings.

    • Andrew Dalke says:

      If a company is big enough that the negative effect of corporate decisions on free speech are comparable to government censorship, then it should be regulated, to preserve free speech rights even in the face of political or economic pressure.

      We regulate telephony companies, and the common carrier requirement helps them resist calls to, say, not provide phone services to a widely reviled group. Imagine if Wilkerson, the American Legion, etc. were able to persuade AT&T to cut off phone service to everyone on the Hollywood blacklist.

      Mind you, companies already "police political speech." That's part of the right of free association. It's how the blacklist worked, as there was no law enforcing it. It's also how companies fired employees who talked about unionizing. It's how our host can decide to not do business with those calling for literal genocide. It's how a business might drop an advertising campaign with a newspaper which published news about illegal actions at the company. It's how Pulitzer or Hearst could fire a reporter who wanted to write about how we shouldn't go to war with Spain.

      If you want companies to not police political speech, you need laws to keep them from doing so. (For examples, NRLA, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and state laws in the few states which prohibit discrimination based on political affiliation.) Otherwise they will do so if they think it's good for the company.

  2. ennui says:

    And in most situations what we’re seeing is that Silicon Valley, which is very good at evaluating technology, sucks at evaluating human interaction.

    lolwut. SV sucks at evaluating technology. twitter has always been a combination of worst-in-class web forum and worst-in-class RSS replacement and when it fails it won't be because suddenly SV noticed this. twitter will fail when it's investors realize that Googlefacebook owns all future growth in internet ad revenue.

    but, oh wait, twitter is actually a "human interaction company..." great. no one who is spending any time doing "human interaction" would ever use that phrase. hey, maybe "free speech" is actually totally incompatible with building a ad-revenue supported surveillance system built on endless manipulating how "users" "interact". the nazis aren't the fucking problem.

    • jwz says:

      the nazis aren't the fucking problem

      Excuse me, whatever other failings Twitter and Googbook might have, Nazis are very much a fucking problem.

    • Web Guy says:

      "twitter will fail when..."

      They've lost over two billion running a website engineered for narcissistic assholes to snipe at each other, and they've held on for 11 years so far.

      I'm fairly optimistic, but not that optimistic.

  3. B says:

    I guess I'm unclear what everyone thinks would be "the right thing to do." Virtually everyone agrees nazis are bad - swastikas are literally illegal in Germany. So great, ban that symbol. But not every feels that way about the confederate flag. Should you also ban the Gadsen flag (you know, from the revolutionary war, not the civil war)? Some racist people use it as a dog whistle (the EEOC said it was straight racist). What about Pepe? There are lots of bad symbols in this world. I assume we're policing them all?

    But isn't the real issue trolling and incivility? Cornel West absolutely positively does not like Ta-Nehisi Coates and thinks he is wrong. But the reason Coates leaves twitter is probably the straight racist, rude and uncivil discourse around their disagreement - not because a racist guy "liked" West's post. Coates already knew that! Twitter is just a horrible way for people to discuss anything of substance, and the level of hate, vitriol, and meanness is off the chart.

    Put another way, I can't see how you kick off a Trump or David Duke simply because you think their views are "bad." There is an alt-right in Germany where Nazis are literally illegal. Besides, I don't think they are what make Twitter a cess-pool - they speak carefully, to a broad audience who already agree with them. They are NOT Milo and it is important to realize that. It's the clusterfuck of lynch mob that pile on with strictly anonymous shit cock racism and hate that I think are the real issue here - not the fact that someone can have a confederate flag avatar. It's that twitter literally doesn't care one bit about abuse.

    • margaret says:

      twitbook is a platform for the worst kind of asshole behavior of all stripe. i did what i could do and took myself off the platform when i realized the shits who run it thrived on the melee and had no interest in cleaning the place up. i hope other reasonable people do the same - i.e. delete your account!

      removing "good" nodes from the network has several effects: - less content generated. - less eyeballs to advertise to. - less reason for others to join. - power to assholes of all stripe. - better mental health for me.

      hand wringing about what others can/should do, particularly when they have a financial interest not to is pointless. like shouting at clouds. if you do nothing, and bloviating on is nothing, you are encouraging more of the same.

      • margaret says:

        ^less power to assholes...

      • B says:

        Sure, it's easy to say "just don't use twitter, that company is horrible and makes the world worse." I actually don't use Facebook, because I am old enough I don't need it to function socially and it's also a bad company. But I get a lot out of twitter - whether it's following the NYT's Maggie Haberman, the ACLU's Eva Halperin or 4th amendment and computer crime expert Orin Kerr - these are subject matter experts tweeting about their areas of expertise. Long ago these people wrote "blogs" but that day (with a few exceptions like this one) is long gone. On twitter I follow experts in my own field - it makes me better at my job. I very seldom see the dark side of twitter - I follow serious people using it as a conduit for their expertise, not to shitpost. People who, if they posted inappropriately, would likely lose their jobs.

        So I'm not really sure what you suggest I do - I am a more informed citizen because I follow experts on twitter. I am better at my job because I use twitter. Yet because Jack Dorsey is a capitalist a-hole and "after banning Nazis, where to draw the free speech line" is actually a hard problem I should turn off my account? And by continuing to use twitter means "I'm doing nothing to help"? It's a hard proposition and to suggest there are easy actions to take is I think too simplistic. Twitter actually has both good and bad attributes, unfortunately.

      • B says:

        Forgot to mention it is cathartic to bloviate here - old school blog style. Even it means nothing it's an archaic pleasure one can't get from twitter.

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