On Friday, Recode posted New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen’s hourlong interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, which served as a retrospective on the social media executive’s recent media tour and testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about allegations of bias against conservatives on the platform.
Dorsey spent much of the interview discussing Twitter’s strained relationship with conservative users, who have been misleadingly accusing the platform of shadow banning and removing accounts to suppress their viewpoints.
“I think it’s more and more important to at least clarify what our own bias leans towards, and just express it,” he said in explaining why he publicly admitted to CNN’s Brian Stelter that Twitter’s employees tend to be left-leaning. “I’d rather know what someone biases to rather than try to interpret through their actions.”
This bias manifests itself, Dorsey claims, in Twitter’s internal workplace culture. “We have a lot of conservative-leaning folks in the company as well, and to be honest, they don’t feel safe to express their opinions at the company,” he said. The CEO encouraged his conservative employees to speak their minds, but acknowledged that it may take some “courage” to do so given the company’s generally liberal tenor. Dorsey has of late been trying to reach out to more conservatives who have become distrustful of the platform. Last month, during his media tour, he called in to Sean Hannity’s radio show to explain how Twitter handles content moderation.
However, Dorsey stopped short of professing that the company’s internal political leanings influence the platform’s enforcement actions. In fact, he seems to believe that explicitly stating that Twitter employees tend to be liberal helps them to act more impartially. “I think it allows us to remove that a little bit more from the work,” Dorsey said. Both Dorsey and other Twitter spokespersons have repeatedly asserted that political ideology in no way influences the company’s decisions.
While Dorsey appears to be striving for more intellectual honesty and transparency in his role as the public face of Twitter, his comments may fuel largely baseless claims of biased censorship on the platform among conservatives who conflate the company’s internal politics with its approach to content moderation. For example, the pro-Trump blog True Pundit has interpreted the interview as suggesting that Twitter is silencing conservatives.
Later in the interview, Dorsey backed away from the idea that Twitter is a neutral public utility, instead likening the site to a public park. He likened the platform’s enforcement actions to that of a police officer who warns a park goer not to shout insults at someone using a megaphone. As Dorsey put it:
So that action right there was not neutrality, it was being impartial to the conduct and with an eye towards more of the collective, with an eye towards like, “We need to make Washington Square Park something that people actually want to be at and recognize that there’s going to be people who choose unhealthy behaviors and we’re going to at least demonstrate what is not healthy and what could be healthier.”
Conservative lawmakers and pundits have also targeted Google, its subsidiary YouTube, and Facebook with accusations of liberal bias. These companies have all ardently denied that any sort of politically-motivated censorship takes place on their platform, and their executives have not gone as far as Dorsey in admitting to fostering a largely-liberal culture in their workplaces.
You can read the full interview here.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus