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.
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. Twitter’s point is that this kind of harassment needs to actually take place on its platform to get a user kicked off, which in a world in which Twitter policy was uniformly enforced (i.e. a world in which Twitter dedicated sufficient resources to the problem) that would at least be a consistent policy.
Instead of articulating that policy in a clear, decisive way, Twitter said some unnecessarily defensive things that kind of miss the point via an @jack tweetstorm and a tepid blog post touting the company’s vague new commitment to “healthy public conversation.”
If you didn’t read either, you’re not missing anything. Here’s an excerpt from the blog post:
“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: