In case you missed the memo because it was buried under all those TPS reports, this is Beat Up on Twitter Day here at the Resurgent. Our intrepid Steve Berman served up a great, big sizzling steak in that regard with his post this morning—but in case you’re in the mood for a nice side of potatoes, I went ahead and whipped up a batch for you here.
Or rather, Jack Dorsey did, when he committed a huge gaffe the other day—otherwise known in politics as “telling the truth.” I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it:
In an interview with podcaster Sam Harris on February 5, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was grilled about the way “Twitter reliably lands on one side of the political divide.” Harris questioned Dorsey about Twitter’s decision to ban feminist Megan Murphy for tweeting “Men are not women,” while ignoring Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic tweets.
Dorsey responded immediately to Harris’ questions, saying “I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance anymore. I don’t believe that we should optimize for neutrality.”
Now, if you’re not familiar with the federal law that governs the liability of social media networks for the material that appears on their sites, you may just shrug, guffaw and then sneer, “Whoop-dee-doo. Since when has Twitter been neutral? They’ve been shadow banning right-leaning users for years.” If, on the other hand, you have even a passing familiarity with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, then you might have noticed how badly Dorsey just stepped in it.
In a nutshell, Section 230 exempts social media companies from liability stemming from what users post on their networks. That’s because Congress has deemed them neutral platforms that merely facilitate whatever their users happen to post. In other words, if I tweet something defamatory about someone, the offended party could come after me for libel but can’t sue Twitter for providing me a forum in which to post that libel.
Of course, that exemption presupposes that Twitter is, in fact, a neutral platform. If they don’t police and curate content, they can’t be held responsible for it. Jack Dorsey, however, just admitted that Twitter can’t take a neutral stance anymore—which for the purposes of Section 230 makes them a publisher.
And a publisher, as we all know, is responsible for the content that appears in its pages, whether paper or digital. Ergo, under federal law, this makes Twitter liable for what its users say.
This goes far beyond policing for illegal content—this goes to curating all content, blocking the stuff that doesn’t comport with Twitter’s corporate values. So based on Dorsey’s confession, it only stands to reason that everything that appears on Twitter must have their seal of approval—and all the baggage that goes with it.
It’s long past time that Congress recognizes this fact, and treats Twitter accordingly. Then we’ll see how well their business model works with all that exposure.