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While tech giants Facebook, YouTube and Apple booted content by conspiracy theorist and far-right radio host Alex Jones this week, one company resisted purging him from its platform: Twitter.
Now, after a torrent of backlash from those accusing Jones and his site, Infowars, of peddling false and damaging conspiracies, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his decision in a series of tweets Tuesday night.
“We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules,” Dorsey tweeted. “We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.”
He added that the company is holding Jones to the same standard as it does every account rather than “taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.”
He also said it’s up to journalists to document and vet accounts such as Jones’ so that “people can form their own opinions.”
Dorsey’s reasoning was not well received by Emily Horne, the former head of global policy communications for Twitter, who pushed back against the idea that communications were to blame.
“If I still worked for you, I’d have advised you to frame this as a sign that if current Twitter policies permit verified accounts to encourage followers to harass/harm people offline, then the policies aren’t working as intended & Twitter is looking hard at the way forward,” she tweeted.
Twitter is in the midst of an effort to promote “healthy conversation,” hiring outside researchers to study the platform and make recommendations on how to promote “openness and civility.”
In a post about its rules, Twitter said on Tuesday that it has recently updated a list of “abusive behaviors” that could get an account taken down, including making unwanted sexual advances, sharing intimate photos of someone or threatening to expose or hack another person.
The policy also mentions hateful conduct that includes “abusive usernames” and imagery, as well as glorifying violence and violent extremist groups.
Earlier this year, Dorsey said publicly that the company has grappled with regulating abuse — from Russian bots to alt-right agitators to trolls.
Twitter has at times pulled the plug on recognizable accounts for violating its service. Two years ago, former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was banned after leading the harassment against “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones.
And last fall, Twitter made the notable move of scrapping official verifications — blue check marks — on the accounts of prominent white nationalists.
Facebook and YouTube have said users who violate their policies repeatedly can be yanked from their platforms; Jones and Infowars had millions of subscribers on each.
Jones is known for perpetuating hoaxes, including falsely claiming the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was staged by actors. Families of the victims have filed lawsuits against him for defamation.
On Twitter, he continued to tell his more than 858,000 followers that his ouster from other social media platforms remains a matter of free speech — and questioned if other conservative voices will be similarly targeted.
“It’s about whose speech and ideas are favored and whose are opposed,” his account tweeted early Wednesday.