25 September 2020

The New York Times: “Twitter had been drawing a Line for Months when Trump Crossed It”

And after midnight, Mr. Dorsey gave his go-ahead: Twitter would hide Mr. Trump’s tweet behind a warning label that said the message violated its policy against glorifying violence. It was the first time Twitter applied that specific warning to any public figure’s tweets.

The action has prompted a broad fight over whether and how social media companies should be held responsible for what appears on their sites, and was the culmination of months of debate inside Twitter. For more than a year, the company had been building an infrastructure to limit the impact of objectionable messages from world leaders, creating rules on what would and would not be allowed and designing a plan for when Mr. Trump inevitably broke them.

But the path to that point was not smooth. Inside Twitter, dealing with Mr. Trump’s tweets — which are the equivalent of a presidential megaphone — was a fitful and uneven process. Some executives repeatedly urged Mr. Dorsey to take action on the inflammatory posts while others insisted he hold back, staying hands-off as the company had done for years.

Kate Conger

Twitter and Facebook faced a similar dilemma regarding Trump’s wild statements, but ultimately settled on different, almost opposing positions: while Facebook has constantly delayed actions, tried to minimize the issues and appease the President, Twitter went on the offensive by labeling Trump’s tweets and limiting their reach. It may not be enough to satisfy some of Twitter’s vocal critics, but I think it is the right approach to draw public attention to the lies and disinformation spread by Trump to secure power.

And then Jack Dorsey comes along and says he owns the game and this is the way it’s gonna be. Dorsey is playing Trump’s game and Trump doesn’t like it.

But I do. Because for once someone with money and power is doing what’s right as opposed to what’s expedient.

We need more of this. It’s the only way out of this mess.

Bob Lefsetz

Of course, Trump fought back with more outrage and an executive order meant to limit Twitter’s ability to moderate the platform, but with limited actual power. And received little pushback from other tech companies, maybe more concerned with their antitrust investigations and the possibility of a second term for Trump.

Another article on the subject offers further clues as to why Facebook’s reactions have been delayed and favoring Trump:

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the recommendation was in front of Dorsey and his executive team. They gave the go-ahead, and only after that did they loop in Borrman and Monique Meche, Twitter’s VP of global public policy and its top liaison to government, Borrman told me. The system is set up that way to keep enforcement decisions independent from the teams responsible for PR and government relations, he noted. (In contrast, Facebook routes critical policy decisions through policy chief Joel Kaplan, who is also the company’s main man in Washington, an arrangement that its former chief security officer recently criticized).

Will Oremus

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