Twitter Users Demand Jack Dorsey Censor Platform with Hashtag #JackStopTheHate

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey seated, speaks at TED.
Jack Dorsey, speaking at TED2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Ryan Lash/TED via Flickr)
Progressive Twitter users really want the platform to censor the content of right-wingers, and they let Twitter CEO know it on Sunday with the hashtag #JackStopTheHate.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s mass shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, U.S. progressives rallied under the hashtag to demand that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey ban neo-Nazis, President Donald Trump and other assorted right-wingers from the social media site.

The hashtag, which was trending on Twitter Sunday afternoon, was promoted in part by Democratic rainmaker Jon Cooper, the founding chairman of the Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump super PAC formed in Spring 2016, “with the main goal of making sure that Donald Trump never became president,” according to the PAC’s website.

On April 28 at 4:34 a.m., Cooper tweeted to his 264,000 followers, encouraging them to help him make #JackStopTheHate trend on Twitter as a collective response to “yet another mass shooting by a white supremacist,” and as a way to pressure Dorsey to “finally set aside politics and autoban white supremacists and neo-Nazis on Twitter.”

His initial Tweet scored 7,580 retweets and 14,135 likes, as well as a number of Tweets from others who blamed Dorsey for everything from the October synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh to the mosque shootings this March in Christchurch, New Zealand to Trump’s April 12 Tweet of a video with a clip from a speech given by Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, which Omar blames for death threats that she says she’s received in response.

Many of those using #JackStopTheHate cited a report from Vice‘s  tech news site, Motherboard, quoting an unnamed Twitter employee,  an expert in artificial intelligence and machine learning, who explained why the company seemed incapable of blocking hateful content from white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but was able to keep a terrorist group like ISIS off the site.

From Motherboard:

With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, [the employee] explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.

In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.

The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.

The same article noted that there was “no indication that this position is an official policy of Twitter,” and a Twitter spokesperson is quoted as saying that the employee’s explanation “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement—on any level.”

Twitter’s terms of service include extensive rules on what can and cannot be posted to the site, including what’s deemed to be “hateful content,” and the company famously purged a slew of accounts belonging to neo-Nazis and their supporters in December 2017.

But Dorsey has said in the past that Twitter relies a great deal on its users to report hateful content, and many progressives made clear that they believe Dorsey should ban far-right beliefs from the site, including those of Republicans. Trump, too, should be banned, they argued.

The “Anti-Masculinity Liberal” Tweeted that if banning neo-Nazis “sweeps up Republican politicians, even Trump, so be it.”

Similarly, Boston-based tech writer David Leavitt, Tweeted, “It’s time Nazis and didn’t have a platform to spread their racism and sexism.”

And many of the hashtag users echoed the views of Lee Hiller in Arkansas that, “Each attack by a white supremacist terrorist is on because he allows the “hater in chief” to inspire them using Twitter.”

Similarly, the Women’s March tweeted a call to suspend Trump from Twitter, though it did not use the #JackStopTheHate hashtag.

Interestingly, the 19 year-old man accused of the Poway synagogue attack, John Earnest, allegedly posted a manifesto to the forum 8chan, in which he took responsibility for the shootings in advance, as well as claiming credit for a case of arson at a nearby mosque. But so far, there has been no direct link between Twitter and the attack, at least none that Front Page Confidential has identified.

Still, several Twitter users felt comfortable blaming all such mass shootings on Dorsey and Twitter. They also gave Dorsey hell for his recent, closed-door visit in the Oval Office with Trump, who, according to the Washington Post, griped to the tech guru about how the numbers of followers to his Twitter account had dropped.

The Post article observed that numbers of followers for an account fluctuates because Twitter regularly deletes bogus accounts from its system. Trump’s kvetch is part of a general complaint from conservatives that they are being discriminated against by various social media platforms.

Thing is, Twitter, as a business, can censor whomever it wants, whenever it wants, for any reason it wants. Unlike federal, state and local governments, Twitter is not bound by the First Amendment.

And yet, censorship is often a judgement call by the censor, and not everyone will agree on what is acceptable and what is beyond the pale online.

Even if progressives can force Dorsey to eliminate the ideas they do not agree with, these aberrant thoughts no doubt will thrive online in racist-friendly forums.

Better to meet the ideas you despise on the plains of battle and defeat them, much as Winterfell’s legions did the army of the dead in the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, which had knocked #JackStopTheHate off its trending perch by day’s end Sunday.

See also:

Twitter Purge: Far-Right Users Suspended Under New Hate Speech Policies

and

‘Snitch Scandal’ Probe Initiated by Kamala Harris Ends, Critics Label It a ‘Sham’

About Stephen Lemons

Stephen Lemons is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering everything from government corruption to white-supremacist gangs. In addition to Front Page Confidential, his work has appeared in Phoenix New Times, the Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report magazine.

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