Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended the company’s decision to give conspiracy theorist Alex Jones a seven-day “time out” after the right-wing commentator urged viewers to get their “battle rifles” ready against the media.
Dorsey told NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt that Twitter needs to respond to such incitements to violence on its platform, adding that such action can help influence behavior.
“I feel any suspension, whether it be a permanent or a temporary one, makes someone think about their actions and their behaviors,” Dorsey said in the interview, which airs tonight.
Twitter has come under criticism for being slow to react to Jones, who has been banned by other major technology companies.
Apple was the first to boot Jones’ podcast from the iTunes store, saying it would not tolerate hate speech. Facebook followed suit, saying it was shutting down Jones’ pages for “glorifying violence” and using “dehumanizing language” to describe Muslims, immigrants and transgender people. Spotify blocked InfoWars for promoting or inciting hatred or violence against groups of people or individuals.
Dorsey has resisted banning Jones, despite calls to do so.
“We can’t build a service that is subjective just to the whims of what we personally believe,” Dorsey said in the interview.
Dorsey is sensitive to charges that Twitter suppresses conservative voices, and even met privately this summer with key Republicans to assuage concerns about the tech platform censoring right-leaning tweets.
Twitter came under fresh assault last month after a news report revealed that prominent Republicans were no longer appearing among the names automatically suggested in a drop-down menu when users perform a search on Twitter. President Trump lambasted that as a “shadow ban.”
Dorsey appeared last week on conservative commentator Sean Hannity’s radio show to address the so-called shadow ban, saying Twitter doesn’t ban accounts based on political ideology. He repeated that in his interview with Holt.
“We need to look at behaviors, when people are trying to shut down the voices of others,” Dorsey said. “People are trying to harass others. And that’s independent of a viewpoint.”