On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appeared on The Sean Hannity Show, the firebrand Fox News host’s daily radio program. The move caught many off guard. Dorsey rarely does press interviews, and he had spent the past couple days explaining why Twitter hadn’t joined Apple, Facebook, and others in removing content from InfoWars’ Alex Jones. Even Hannity seemed surprised the elusive Twitter head had agreed to come on his show. At the beginning of the interview, he told Dorsey, “I really appreciate you coming on, because I’m sure this is probably the last thing you want to do.”
The interview was incredibly tame and mostly consisted of Dorsey remarking that content moderation is complex, followed by Hannity agreeing that such a task does sound complex. Sometimes they would switch up the format a little, and Hannity would suggest that a certain content moderation scenario seemed complex, and Dorsey would confirm that it is in fact complex.
The two began by discussing Twitter’s decision not to ban Jones. Dorsey tweeted yesterday that Jones “hasn’t violated our rules.” He echoed that thread in his discussion with Hannity, noting Twitter has in the past failed to adequately disclose why it is suspending certain tweets and accounts. “We haven’t done a great job at communicating our principles, the guidelines that help us make the decisions in the first place,” Dorsey said.
After a brief interlude in which Dorsey assured Hannity that Twitter does not engage in politically-motivated shadow banning, the talk show host then began asking Dorsey about how the platform handles calls for violence and accounts belonging to hate groups. The Twitter CEO reiterated what’s been outlined in numerous blog posts and policies, stating that outright calls for violence are banned but some tweets can toe the line. Hannity, giving a more “nuanced” example of a violent tweet, asked if Twitter would prevent someone from posting, “I wish somebody would just punch Hannity in the face.” Dorsey suggested that moderators would need more cultural context in such a case. He also mentioned that “off-platform behavior” is a consideration when moderating accounts, particularly those of notable racist figures.
Hannity went on to make a case for free speech absolutism, arguing that if people don’t like certain content then they shouldn’t follow accounts posting it. He did, however, note that Twitter is a private company, so it’s not bound by the First Amendment. Dorsey agreed that users do have control over the posts that appear on their timelines, but also pointed out that bad actors can often insert themselves into replies and search results and can engage in behavior that silences other people. “We want to make sure that people have a lot more control over their experience to make sure that they want to engage in that sort of conversation,” he said.
The interview continued to play out this way, with softball questions followed by boilerplate answers. There wasn’t high drama, or probing questions, or any spirited back-and-forth. At the end of the segment, Hannity applauded Dorsey for coming onto the show and extended an invitation to join him on TV.