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Journalists in 2018 have one of the more fraught jobs out there. Not only are they constantly under attack from President Donald Trump, they’re underpaid and live in fear of losing their jobs as tech platforms suck up revenue that once went to news sites.
It sucks, but at least our tech overlord CEOs would also now like journalists to do the thankless task of fact-checking conspiracy theories and policing hate speech for free. Whoopie!!
Last night, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey went on Twitter to discuss why he hadn’t banned Alex Jones and InfoWars from his platform, like the rest of his brethren in Silicon Valley (this week, Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify all took major action).
His response: Jones hadn’t broken any of Twitter’s rules.
We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
So brave. Anyway, it’s perfectly fine if a private platform wants to ban Jones, and it’s perfectly fine if a private platform wants to keep Jones and allow him to spew his dubious, conspiratorial worldviews. What’s not okay is offloading the work you’ve done in amplifying some of his most noxious beliefs onto a whole ‘nother industry, especially a poorly compensated and overly taxed industry.
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.— jack (@jack) August 8, 2018
That… did not go over well.
Alex Jones— James Felton (@JimMFelton) August 8, 2018
WATER IS TURNING FROGS GAY
Journalists please refute that
But we have better things to do-
RONALD MCDONALD STATUES ARE FREAKIN PAEDOPHILES SENT BY HILARY CLINTON
Its critical you debunk that, journalists, 7 million people have seen it https://t.co/fzxQqvmnWm
Journalists report facts, it's not their job to rebut every insane conspiracy theory that's dreamed up as a counter-narrative. We're collectively getting dumber b/c the reality-based 1/2 of the world is being asked to fact-check the fantastical half, at expense of new knowledge. https://t.co/1ALuw4INZ5— Emma Beals (@ejbeals) August 8, 2018
More media attention is precisely what so many extremists and other bad actors want, and saying the solution is journalists refuting every single falsity spread by Jones and his ilk goes against everything we’re learning about how this stuff works https://t.co/27id173yJL https://t.co/gHhdlhCnQi— Caitlin Kelly (@caitlin__kelly) August 8, 2018
One of Jones’ most odious stances is that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged by the government. In case Jack forgot, journalists, you know, did cover that.
not to split hairs, but I think claiming the children killed Sandy Hook children were crisis actors was more than just an “unsubstantiated rumor” https://t.co/JfuljIqdrS— Emma Roller (@emmaroller) August 8, 2018
It wasn’t just that. Dorsey’s claim that Jones hadn’t violated any of Twitter’s rules baffled people, given Twitter’s opaque policing and seemingly reactionary suspensions.
You guys were suspending people for changing their screen name to "Elon Musk" https://t.co/IRzZ9YqZot— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) August 8, 2018
you suspended someone for a joke tweet about antifa super soldiers but okay https://t.co/by8BHS1ElT— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) August 8, 2018
Twitter may one day figure it all out, but yesterday wasn’t that day.
David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]