Twilio, the pending owner of email provider SendGrid, seems to have a zero-tolerance policy toward hate speech.
In a blog post and follow-up interview with CNET, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson slammed 'social media' companies "who go out of their way to ensure that extreme right-wing views are treated fairly."
How those views will affect SendGrid is not yet clear — the sale won’t be complete until early 2019.
Twilio announced last month that it would acquire SendGrid in an all-cash transaction valued at $2 billion.
Lawson, a reported Democrat, apparently is reacting to the wanton slaughter of Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh, and the mailing of explosive devices to Democrats and other critics of President Trump.
“Words matter, and they’re destabilizing the American tribe,” he writes.
In addition, Lawson has “criticized the current ‘power-holders’ in America for allowing white nationalism and other once-extreme views to be discussed and debated openly,” CNET writes.
Last year, Lawson tweeted: “We’ve updated our AUP to explicitly prohibit hate,” he writes. Here’s the policy, which apparently will also have to be complied with by SendGrid:
“Using the Services to transmit any material that is, facilitates or encourages libelous, defamatory, discriminatory, or otherwise malicious or harmful to any person or entity, including but not limited to hate speech, and any other material that Twilio reasonably believes degrades, intimidates, incites violence against anyone based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, geographic location or other protected category.”
The troublesome word in Twilio’s policy is “libelous.” When individuals feel they are libeled, they typically file a civil lawsuit. But it’s not easy to win such cases, and almost impossible for public figures — see the New York Times vs. Sullivan. It may be just as hard for a class of people. Trying to parse libel may prove to be a prohibitive burden, especially if excluded voices choose to litigate it.