by Ben Sixsmith
Tuesday, 30
November 2021
Debate
10:00

Jack Dorsey’s resignation is bad news for free speech

The Twitter founder was a liberal on matters of freedom of expression
by Ben Sixsmith
The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. Credit: Getty

Jack Dorsey stepping down as CEO of Twitter might have been greeted as good news among conservatives. Right-wing politicians and commentators have suffered from censorship on his platform after all. Take, for example, the restrictions that were placed on the New York Post for attempting to promote their accurate reports of the colourful misadventures of Hunter Biden. Or, of course, the banning of President Trump.

But celebration would be premature. Relative to the kind of people in his position, Dorsey is liberal on matters of free speech.

Dorsey is in fact a total misfit in the corporate world. An eccentric who aggravated his Twitter colleagues by leaving work in the evenings to go to yoga classes, Dorsey considered quitting tech to enter the fashion world.  He is also an admirer of political outsiders who supported Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang. He told Congress, this year, “I don’t think we should be the arbiters of truth and I don’t think the government should be either.” His “Bluesky” project aims to decentralize social media networks and put power back into the hands of individual users.

Has Twitter, under Dorsey, often been excessively censorious? Of course. Is he a progressive? Absolutely. (He donated $10,000,000 dollars to Ibram X. Kendi’s pet project the Center for Antiracist Research.) Yet how many CEOs would not only appear on “The Joe Rogan Experience” but would come back on to defend their business practices (albeit with his lawyer)?

Dorsey’s replacement, Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief technical officer, might be more inclined towards suppressing heterodox perspectives than Dorsey has been. In a 2020 interview with the MIT Technology Review, Agrawal said that Twitter would “focus less on thinking about free speech” and more on “thinking about how the times have changed.” “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment,” he added, “But our role is to serve a healthy public conversation.”

To be fair, Agrawal also said that he and his colleagues “don’t get to decide what people choose to believe”, and I do not wish to pretend that social media companies have no difficult questions to ask themselves about how information is presented and promoted. (Most of the interview was focused not on banning people but on trending topics, algorithms et cetera where it would be foolish to pretend that platforms can be value neutral.)

Still, Agrawal will face severe pressure from the kind of commentators who have insisted that @Jack’s laissez faire inclinations made Twitter a “Nazi haven” and left “blood on his hands”. He might have fewer of the stubborn eccentricities that led his predecessor to frustrate them. Crackdowns could be coming.

I hope I am wrong. But if you enjoy posting it may be time to think of an alternative platform to keep in reserve in case Twitter becomes inaccessible. Meanwhile, goodbye @Jack, and thanks. I have had a lot of fun on your app.

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Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
5 months ago

I think the real bad news for free speech is that Jack Dorsey is a defender of free speech.
I used to fear for free speech, now I just pity it.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

The 4 horsemen, Dorsey, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Gates.

$10,000,000 to Ibram X? Pretty much to out to wreck the west and cause division and wreck the education system then.

Zuckerberg ‘Donated’ $419,000,000 to buy Biden his stolen place.

Gates spends hundreds of Millions to get the Pharma/Medical Industries he owns all the Lobbyists needed to make him more multi billions wile making the world creepier every day.

Look into Bezos’s eyes – there is nothing human there…. a very frighting thing – my guess is the 4 all went to some Mississippi Delta Crossroads at midnght and did a Robert Johnson deal.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
5 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I dunno. If I was a crossroads devil, I’d run a mile rather than doing a deal with one of them four.

Art C
Art C
5 months ago

Free speech indeed! Dorsey is in fact a total misfit period! All he ever wanted to do was make a fast buck. He proved to be hopelessly out of his depth when decisions (and courage) were needed in the key areas of publishing, censorship and liberty. With his limited intellect he was easily influenced (his mega-donation to the neo-fascist Kendi proves that) and he has spent the last few years kowtowing to the little commissars who run the Democratic Party & control Big Tech. Dorsey’s legacy is a digital sewer where public discourse has been brought to a new low and shadow-banning and arbitrary censorship are commonplace. An entire generation has spent a large part of their lives marinading in this excrement. If any single entity can be held directly responsible for the polarisation we have today it is Twitter.
By the way, an “alternative platform” is no longer possible. Parler proved that. The big boys are here to stay. Welcome to digital tyranny: you can have any colour as long as it’s black!

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
5 months ago

Realistically you probably can’t run anything defending free speech in San Francisco now, at least not if you plan to hire lots and lots of employees and pay them with ad money, as tech firms usually end up doing.
We’ll see how Substack evolves. They’re doing well at the moment and don’t depend on ad revenues. But they’re based in San Francisco too, so have to recruit from an employee base so left wing the city has decriminalized theft.

Art C
Art C
5 months ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

SubStack are also hosted (at least partially) on Amazon Web Services. That’s just one flick of a switch away from cancellation!.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
5 months ago

A government spokesperson announced today that the Ministry of Truth has been reorganized and privatized.  It’s now known as CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Google, Twitter and Facebook.  Even the woke agree that censorship is more efficiently performed by private companies.  Usually rieliable sources say that most WSJ news reporters and comment “monitoring team” members are former employees of the Ministry of Truth.

Censorship by Twitter, Facebook and Google isn’t any less offensive because it comes from private companies. It’s still censorship along party lines. Twitter cooperated with all other major news and social media to block the New York Post story of Hunter Biden’s laptop for 3 weeks, only relenting after the election was over. The censorship arguably changed the election outcome, covering up Biden family corruption.

The article argues that My Lord Dorsey was less bad than his successor will be. That ain’t saying much, since My Lord Dorsey, like My Lords Zuckerberg and Pichal, are really extremely awful. They view themselves as the arbiters of truth. Not for them is the saying, “Vox populi, vox Dei.” They all think they know better, and act on it every day.