Commentary

Twitter Stands Apart, Standing By Alex Jones

This week, all but one of the industry’s top mobile platforms took a stand against Alex Jones and his endless exploitation of the First Amendment.

Standing apart from Apple, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Spotify, and LinkedIn, Twitter is vowing to support Infowars and Jones’ other disinformation factories.

Why would a company that has long struggled with bad actors stand by a man whose media empire is based on lies and deception? Why help Jones turn national tragedies like the slaughter of 20 children from Sandy Hook Elementary School into fodder for conspiracy buffs?

First off, Twitter says spreading lies doesn’t violate its rules, and that simply offending others isn’t grounds for account suspension. “Twitter is reflective of real conversations happening in the world and that sometimes includes perspectives that may be offensive, controversial, and/or bigoted,” Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety at Twitter, notes in a new blog post.

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Like Facebook and YouTube, Twitter draws the line at content that it considers to be harmful or threatening to others, but these platforms clearly define such terms differently.

Earlier this week, for example, Facebook said Jones’ properties violated its Community Standards by publishing “hate speech that attacks or dehumanizes others,” while Twitter doesn’t think Jones’ fare “harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others.”

Like Facebook -- which had defended its support of Jones’ properties until this week -- Twitter is clearly grappling with its role in the media and information ecosystem.

“They, like other platforms where consumers can post their views on any given topic, are struggling to reconcile their sense of themselves as a platform with the reality that they are more like media companies,” Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group, tells Mobile Insider.

By its own admission, Twitter’s content policies remain a work in progress.

“Our policies and enforcement options evolve continuously,” Harvey admitted in her post. “We continue to expand and update both them and our enforcement options to respond to the changing contours of online conversation.”

In other words, Twitter isn’t married to Jones and his brood, and this story will continue to be written.

3 comments about "Twitter Stands Apart, Standing By Alex Jones".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, August 9, 2018 at 9:54 a.m.

    The First Amendment is not all that nuanced. As long as you’re not shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater, you can still speak freely in this land of liberty. Or just Google the other Supreme Court clarifications. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 9, 2018 at 10:46 a.m.

    The universe would have a better chance of survival with the Twits and entire system. They keep allowing people to "yell fire in a crowded theatre" and they are complicit. Yes, it does need to be shut down. We will all be just fine.

  3. Jennifer Rignani from Jennifer Rignani Freelance replied, August 9, 2018 at 11:16 a.m.

    Oh, I'd say confronting and suing the parents of murdered children is far worse than shouting "Fire!" in a movie theater. As a matter of fact, I'd bet 99% of the world believes it's as bad as, well, confronting and suing the parents of murdered children. Not a tough call here Twitter. Please. 

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