All posts in “jack dorsey”

Alex Jones is so eager to stay on Twitter he’s attempting to follow its rules

Apparently this is what taking "the super high road" looks like.
Apparently this is what taking “the super high road” looks like.

Image: Brian Blanco/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Belching human smokestack Alex Jones is scrubbing his Twitter accounts for their most overt violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service. 

On Thursday, CNN published a list of InfoWars and Jones tweets that contained fun content like individual harassment and degradation on the basis of religion and gender identity. These are behaviors that a reasonable reading of Twitter’s updated 2017 Terms of Service would seem to prohibit.

The news network sent the list to Twitter, after executives repeatedly said that Twitter was allowing Jones and InfoWars to remain on the platform because the accounts had not violated Twitter’s Terms of Service. Jack Dorsey has pledged to “enforce” Twitter’s own rules if Jones ever violates them.

Challenging Dorsey’s assertion, CNN found that Jones had posted on Twitter many of the same pieces of content that had prompted Jones’ booting from Facebook, YouTube, and Apple Music. Twitter confirmed to CNN on Friday that seven of the tweets CNN had spotlighted did indeed violate the terms (it did not specify which tweets). 

But as of today, and despite the admitted violations, Jones and InfoWars remain on the platform. That’s because Twitter exec Del Harvey said that the company won’t punish Jones for his past behavior. And according to CNN, Twitter can’t use the violating tweets that occurred after the ToS updates if it ever does build a case against Jones to kick him off — because Twitter didn’t make the concession before Jones himself took action.

As spotted by CNN, Jones told viewers on his Friday show that he had instructed his staff to delete the offending tweets. He called the removal of the tweets (that called Muslims pedophiles and promoted the idea that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, among other things) taking “the super high road.” He also maintained that the tweets did not in fact violate the terms. Classy and non-contradictory as always, Jones.

It makes perfect sense that Jones would scramble — if only the barest minimum way possible — to ensure that his embattled InfoWars empire remained on Twitter. Last week, YouTube, Facebook, Apple Music, and a host of other social platforms finally dropped the hammer on Jones for his egregious and terms-violating behavior, that had gone on un-policed for far too long. 

Now, Twitter is the only major social media platform that Jones has left — which has prompted praise from Jones’ conservative allies, and outrage from critics of Twitter’s seemingly appeasing and contradictory enforcement of its terms.

For now, Jones is willing to play ball with Twitter, while also playing the victim. That’s a win for Jones, and a loss for the world, that falls squarely on Twitter’s shrugging shoulders.

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Twitter CEO explains alleged ‘shadow bans’ — again

Jack Dorsey went on Sean Hannity to reassure conservatives Twitter doesn't 'shadow ban' people for their political beliefs.
Jack Dorsey went on Sean Hannity to reassure conservatives Twitter doesn’t ‘shadow ban’ people for their political beliefs.

Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Twitter’s CEO is still going out of his way to appease conservatives and conspiracy theorists.

One day after publicly reaffirming his company’s decision not to suspend InfoWars host Alex Jones, Jack Dorsey went on Sean Hannity’s radio show to reassure conservatives that Twitter does not “shadow ban” people for their political beliefs. 

Shadow banning is the term used by some conspiracy theorists to describe Twitter’s practice of limiting the visibility of users who engage in trolling, harassment, and other toxic behavior. But for the far-right, it’s become a rallying cry — proof that Twitter does in fact “censor” users with whom it disagrees.

“We do not shadow ban according to political ideology or viewpoint or content — period,” Dorsey told Hannity.

Of course, Twitter’s most ardent conspiracy theorists are unlikely to be satisfied by Dorsey’s assurances. The concept of shadow banning is one that’s resonated with a subset of right-wing Twitter users who claim Twitter is trying to silence conservative voices. The theory really took off when Donald Trump piled on last month.

After a series of articles claimed the social network was shadow banning well-known Republicans, Trump added fuel to the Twitter dumpster fire saying his administration would “look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once.”

The problem for Twitter is that this narrative is completely false. But the fact that Twitter, which has been desperately trying to shake its reputation as a platform for toxic trolls, has now explained itself numerous times hasn’t made much of a difference. Across the internet, members of the conspiracy-minded far-right have seized on the idea that the Bay Area company is part of a larger conspiracy to silence anyone and everyone they disagree with. 

A subset of these users, claiming to be victims of Twitter’s shadow bans, have taken to adding the ❌ emoji to their Twitter names to indicate their supposed shadow ban status.

In his Hannity interview, Dorsey appeared to allude to this in his attempt to explain how Twitter’s anti-harassment algorithms actually work. 

“These signals evolve minute by minute, hourly by hourly,” he said of Twitter’s filtering tools. “These are not scarlet, permanent letters that people then take on as a badge and will never be ranked high in search, or not allowed to trend, or ranked high in conversation. These are models that are looking at behaviors, and behaviors of bad faith actors who intend to manipulate, distract, divide a conversation.”

In other words: Twitter’s algorithms are constantly changing. Those who have been affected by supposed shadow bans can simply stop harassing and trolling others to have their accounts go back to normal.

Yet even Hannity suggested he was unwilling to take Dorsey’s explanation at face value.

“I am concerned if it’s going to turn into a ban only conservative issue, which I can see happening,” he said before ending the interview.

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Twitter defends its decision to keep the Alex Jones conspiracy factory around

[Heavy sigh]

Twitter is doing that thing again. That thing where it stands by an incoherent policy choice that is only consistent with its long historical record of inconsistency.

Late Tuesday, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey took to the platform to defend his company’s choice to keep manic conspiracy theorist and hatemonger Alex Jones and his Infowars empire alive and tweeting.

Last week, that choice wouldn’t have turned heads, but after a kind of sudden and inexplicable sea change from all of the other major social platforms over the weekend, Twitter stands alone. To be fair, those social platforms didn’t really assert their own decisions to oust Jones — Apple led the pack, kicking him out of its Podcasts app, and the rest — Facebook, Spotify and YouTube, most notably — meekly followed suit.

Prior to its new statements, Twitter justified its decision to not ban Jones first by telling journalists like us that Jones didn’t actually violate Twitter’s terms of service because most of his abuse and hateful conduct, two violations that might get him banished, live one click away, outside the platform.

The same could be said for most of the hateful drivel that came from the infamous account of the now-banned Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos was eventually booted from Twitter for violating the platform’s periodically enforced prohibition against “the targeted abuse or harassment of others.” Jones is known for commanding a similarly hateful online loser army, though in his case they mostly spend their time harassing the parents of Sandy Hook victims rather than black actresses.

Confused? Yeah, same. Now, Twitter is out with an @jack tweetstorm and a tepid blog post, touting the company’s vague new commitment to “healthy public conversation.”

If you didn’t read it, you’re not missing anything. Here’s an excerpt.

“Our policies and enforcement options evolve continuously to address emerging behaviors online and we sometimes come across instances where someone is reported for an incident that took place prior to that behavior being prohibited. In those instances, we will generally require the individual to delete the Tweet that violates the new rules but we won’t generally take other enforcement action against them (e.g. suspension). This is reflective of the fact that the Twitter Rules are a living document. We continue to expand and update both them and our enforcement options to respond to the changing contours of online conversation. This is how we make Twitter better for everyone.”

Great, crystal clear. Right? If it isn’t here’s a taste of Dorsey’s new tweetstorm:

Here’s the gist:

Alex Jones and Infowars didn’t break any of Twitter’s rules. Twitter is very bad at explaining its choices and trying to get better, maybe. Twitter won’t follow other platforms for policy enforcement decisions like this because it thinks that sets a bad precedent. Twitter doesn’t want to become a platform “constructed by [its creators’] personal views” (this delusion of neutrality bit is where he really started losing us).

Dorsey finishes with a fairly infuriating assertion that journalists should shoulder all of the work of addressing hatespeech and generally horrific content that leads to real-life harassment, it’s not really Twitter’s problem. Believe us, we’re working on it!!

“Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.”

To the bit about journalists, all we can say is: Twitter, it’s time to own your shit.

Even for those of us concerned about the precedents set by some of tech’s occasional lopsided gestures toward limiting the myriad horrors on the extremely totally neutral platforms that definitely in no way make tech companies publishers, Dorsey’s comments suck. Sure, the whole thing about staying consistent sounds okay at first, but Twitter is the platform most infamous for its totally uneven enforcement around harassment and hatespeech and the ones that leaves its users most vulnerable. If the company is truly making an effort to be less terrible at explaining its decisions — and we’re skeptical about that too — this is pretty inauspicious start.

Here’s Twitter’s position on Alex Jones (and hate-peddling anti-truthers) — hint: It’s a fudge

The number of tech platforms taking action against Alex Jones, the far right InfoWars conspiracy theorist and hate speech preacher, has been rising in recent weeks — with bans or partial bans including from Google, Apple and Facebook.

However, as we noted earlier, Twitter is not among them. Although it has banned known hate peddlers before.

Jones continues to be allowed a presence on Twitter’s platform — and is using his verified Twitter account to scream about being censored all over the mainstream place, hyperventilating at one point in the past 16 hours that ‘censoring Alex Jones is censoring everyone’ — because, and I quote, “we’re all Alex Jones now”.

(Fact check: No, we’re not… And, Alex, if you’re reading this, we suggest you take heart from the ideas in this Onion article and find a spot in your local park.)

We asked Twitter why it has not banned Jones outright, given that its own rules service proscribe hate speech and hateful conduct…

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Read more about our hateful conduct policy.

Add to that, CEO Jack Dorsey has made it his high profile mission of late to (try to) improve conversational health on the platform. So it seems fair to wonder how Twitter continuing to enable a peddler of toxic lies and hate is going to achieve that?

While Twitter would not provide a statement about Jones’ continued presence on its platform, a spokesman told us that InfoWars and Jones’ personal account are not in violation of Twitter (or Periscope’s) ToS . At least not yet. Though he pointed out it could of course take action in the future — i.e. if it’s made aware of particular tweets that violate its rules.

Twitter’s position therefore appears to be that the content posted by InfoWars to other social media platforms is different to the content Jones posts to Twitter itself — ergo, its (hedgy & fudgy) argument essentially boils down to saying Jones is walking a fine enough line on Twitter itself to avoid a ban, because he hasn’t literally tweeted content that violates the letter of Twitter’s ToS.

(Though he has tweeted stuff like “the censorship of Infowars just vindicates everything we’ve been saying” — and given the hate-filled, violently untruthful things he has been saying all over the Internet, he’s essentially re-packaged all those lies into that single tweet, so… )

To spell out Twitter’s fudge: The fact of Jones being a known conspiracy theorist and widely visible hate preacher is not being factored into its ToS enforcement decisions.

The company says it’s judging the man by his output on Twitter — which means it’s failing to take into account the wider context around Jones’ tweets, i.e. all the lies and hate he peddles elsewhere (and indeed all the insinuating nods and dog whistles he makes to his followers on Twitter) — and by doing so it is in fact enabling the continued spread of hate via the wink-wink-nod-nod back door.

Twitter’s spokesman did not want to engage in a lengthy back and forth conversation, healthy or otherwise, about Jones/InfoWars so it was not possible to get a response from the company on that point.

However it does argue, i.e. in defense of its fudged position, that keeping purveyors of false news on its platform allows for an open, real-time debate which in turn allows for their lies to be challenged and debunked by people who are in their right minds — so, basically, this is the ‘fight bad speech with more speech argument’ that’s so beloved of people already enjoying powerful privilege.

The problem with that argument (actually, there are many) is it does not factor in the human cost; the people suffering directly because toxic lies impact their lives. Nor the cost to truth itself; To belief in the veracity and authenticity of credible sources of information which are under sustained and vicious attack by anti-truthers like Jones; The corrosive impact on professional journalism from lies being packaged and peddled under the lying banner of self-styled ‘truth journalism’ that Jones misappropriates. Nor the cost to society from hate speech whose very purpose is to rip up the social fabric and take down civic values — and, in the case of Jones’ particular bilious flavor, to further bang the drum of abuse via the medium of toxic disinformation — to further amplify and spread his pollution, via the power of untruth — to whip up masses of non-critically thinking conspiracy-prone followers. I could go on. (I have here.)

The amplification effect of social media platforms — combined with cynical tricks used by hate peddlers to game algorithms, such as bots retweeting and liking content to make it seem more popular than it is — makes this stuff a major, major problem.

‘Bad speech’ on such powerful platforms can become not just something to roll your eyes at and laughingly dismiss, but a toxic force that bullies, beats down and drowns out other types of speech — perhaps most especially truthful speech, because falsehood flies (and online it’s got rocket fuel) — and so can have a very deleterious impact on conversational health.

Really, it needs to be handled in a very different way. Which means Twitter’s position on Jones, and hateful anti-truthers in general, looks both flawed and weak.

It’s also now looking increasingly isolated, as other tech platforms are taking action.

Twitter’s spokesman also implied the company is working on tuning its systems to actively surface high quality counter-narratives and rebuttals to toxic BS — such as in replies to known purveyors of fake news like InfoWars.

But while such work is to be applauded, working on a fix also means you don’t actually have a fix yet. Meanwhile the lies you’re not stopping are spreading on your platform — at horrible and high cost to people and society.

It’s hard to see this as a defensible position.

And while Twitter keeps sitting on its fence, Jones’ hate speech and toxic lies, broadcast to millions as a weapon of violent disinformation, have got his video show booted from YouTube (which, after first issuing a strike yesterday then terminated his page for “violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines”).

The platform had removed ads from his channel back in March — but had not then (as Jones falsely claimed at the time) banned it. That decision took another almost half year for YouTube to arrive at.

Also yesterday, almost all of Jones’ podcasts were pulled by Apple, with the company saying it does not tolerate hate speech. “We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions,” it added.

Earlier this month, music streaming service Spotify also removed some of Jones’ podcasts for violating its hate-speech policy.

Even Facebook removed a bunch of Jones’ videos late last month, for violating its community standards — albeit after some dithering, and what looked like a lot of internal confusion.

The social media behemoth also imposed a 30-day ban on Jones’ personal account for posting the videos, and served him a warning notice for the InfoWars Facebook Page he controls.

Facebook later clarified it had banned Jones’ personal profile because he had previously received a warning — whereas the InfoWars Page had not, hence the latter only getting a strike.

There have even been bans from some unlikely quarters: YouPorn just announced action against Jones for a ToS violation — nixing his ability to try to pass off anti-truth hate preaching as a porn alternative on its platform.

Pinterest, too, removed Jones’ ‘hate, lies & supplements’ page after Mashable made enquiries.

So, uh, other responses than Twitter’s (of doing nothing) are widely possible.

On Twitter, Jones also benefits from being able to distinguish his account from any would-be imitators or satirists, because he has a verified account — denoted on the platform by a blue check mark badge.

We asked Twitter why it hasn’t removed Jones’ blue badge — given that the company has, until relatively recently, been rethinking its verification program. And last year it actively removed blue badges from a number of white supremacists because it was worried it looked like it had been endorsing them. Yet Jones — who spins the gigantic lie of ‘white genocide’ — continues to keep his.

Twitter’s spokesman pointed us to this tweet last month from product lead, Kayvon Beykpour, who wrote that updating the program “isn’t a top priority for us right now”.

Beykpour went on to explain that while Twitter had “paused” public verification last November (because “we wanted to address the issue that verifying the authenticity of an account was being conflated with endorsement”), it subsequently paused its own ‘pause for thought’ on having verified some very toxic individuals, with Beykpour writing in an email to staff in July:

Though the current state of Verification is definitely not ideal (opaque criteria and process, inconsistency in our procedures, external frustration from customers), I don’t believe we have the bandwidth to address this holistically (policy, process, product, and a plan around how & when these fit together) without coming at the cost of our other priorities and distracting the team.

At the same time Beykpour admits in the thread that Twitter has been ‘unpausing’ its pause on verification in some circumstances (“we still verify accounts ad hoc when we think it serves the public conversation & is in line with our policy”); but not, evidently, going so far as to unpause its pause on removing badges from hateful people who gain unjustified authenticity and authority from the perceived endorsement of Twitter verification — such as in ‘ad hoc’ situations where doing so might be terribly, terribly appropriate. Like, uh, this one.

Beykpour wrote that verification would be addressed by Twitter post-election. So it’s presumably sticking to its lack of having a policy at all right now, for now. (“I know this isn’t the most satisfying news, but I wanted to be transparent about our priorities,” he concluded.)

Twitter’s spokesman told us it doesn’t have anything further to share on verification at this point.

Jones’ toxic activity on social media has included spreading the horrendous lie that children who died in the Sandy Hook U.S. school shooting were ‘crisis actors’.

So, for now, a man who lies about the violent death of little children continues to be privileged with a badge on his not-at-all-banned Twitter account.

Two of the parents of a child who died at the school wrote an open letter to Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, last month, describing how toxic lies about the school shooting spread via social media had metastasized into violent hate and threats directed at them.

“Our families are in danger as a direct result of the hundreds of thousands of people who see and believe the lies and hate speech, which you have decided should be protected,” wrote Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah, who died on 14 December, 2012, at the age of six.

“What makes the entire situation all the more horrific is that we have had to wage an almost inconceivable battle with Facebook to provide us with the most basic of protections to remove the most offensive and incendiary content.”

Twitter may finally be testing an edit button


Image: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Holy Kim Kardashian! Have The People’s Twitter prayers been answered?

According to ProPublica reporter Logan Jaffe, it looks like… wait for it… Twitter may be testing an EDIT BUTTON.

A tweet edit function is one of the most requested features on Twitter — requests that Twitter has steadfastly denied. In June, Kim Kardashian even lobbied Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey directly for the feature — making the most headway of anyone to date on the issue. Jack, is Kim responsible for this?

It’s worth noting that Jaffe’s screenshot comes from Tweetdeck — not Twitter dot com or the Twitter app itself. After being asked for more information, Jaffe tweeted a clarification that she was able to use the edit button, on Tweetdeck, to edit a tweet.

Mashable has reached out to Twitter to ask whether we can place our hopes and dreams in this apparition, or if this is a random fluke. We’ll update this story when and if we hear back.

In the meantime — for all you typo-makers, and tweet regret-havers out there — here’s hoping this lil’ button could be the real thing.

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