CEO Jack Dorsey Defends Twitter's #LearntoCode Purges

CEO Jack Dorsey Defends Twitter's #LearntoCode Purges
CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, attend a Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on September 5, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Independent journalist Tim Pool sat down with Twitter executives Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde on comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast Tuesday for a long conversation about the social media platform’s policies regarding speech — and its perceived bias against conservatives.

Dorsey is co-founder and CEO of Twitter, and founder and CEO of Square, a mobile payments company. Gadde serves as Twitter’s legal, policy and trust and safety lead.

During the discussion, Pool brought up numerous instances in which Twitter enforced suspensions against conservatives while allowing liberals to get away with equally egregious behavior. Gadde insisted that the platform doles out punishment to accounts that violate the company’s harassment guidelines without political bias or the intent to “police ideology.”

Yet Pool and Rogan repeatedly brought up cases in which it looked like Twitter did just that.

For instance, they asked Gadde why Twitter bans users who refer to trans people as their biological gender, a violation known as “misgendering,” arguing that it’s an example of an “ideologically based rule.”

“You have an argument between two people and you have a rule that enforces only one side of the ideology, and you’ve banned only one of those people,” Pool said.

“We have a rule that attempts to address what we have perceived to be instances of abuse and harassment,” Gadde answered.

Rogan broke in:

It is an ideology. If she is saying a man is never a woman, if that is what she’s saying, and then biologically she’s correct, we obviously have a debate here. This is not a clear-cut [issue]. This is not something you can say water is wet, this is dry. This is not something that you can prove. This is something that you have to acknowledge that there is an understanding that someone who is a trans person, we all agree to consider them a woman and to think of them as a woman, to talk to them, to address them with their preferred names and preferred pronouns. But biologically this is not accurate.

We have a divide here. We have a divide with the conservative estimation of what’s happening and then the definition that’s the liberal definition of it.

Pool then added:

You have a specific rule for one set of people and there — so there are people who have general body dysphoria. You don’t have rules on that. There are people who have actually amputated their own arms. You don’t have rules on that. You have a very specific rule-set and more importantly, in the context of a targeted conversation I can say a whole bunch of things that could never be considered a rule-break, but that one … which is ideologically driven.

“Our intent is not to police ideology. Our intent is to police behaviors that we view as abusive and harassment and I hear your point of view and I’ll definitely discuss with our team,” Gadde responded.

“I think that’s right, Joe,” Gadde added. “And I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s not that you can’t have those viewpoints. If you’re taking those viewpoints… you’re targeting at a specific person in a way that reflects your intent to abuse and harass them.”

“What if it’s in the context of a conversation?” Rogan asked. He brought up the case of Meghan Murphy, a self-described feminist, who was banned for misgendering someone. “What if she’s saying that I don’t think that trans women should be allowed in these female spaces to make decisions for women?” he continued. Rogan argued that, in the context of that conversation, noting that a biologically male is not a woman should not be deemed abusive.

Gadde maintained that in the context of the entire conversation, Murphy was misgendering a particular person.

“You’re having an individual who’s debating a high-profile individual in her community and she’s expressing her ideology versus hers — and you have opted to ban one of those ideologies,” Pool argued.

“I understand that this is controversial,” Gadde responded.

Pool asked Gadde and Dorsey about Twitter’s recent actions against accounts that tweeted “learn to code.”

“Why are people being suspended for tweeting hashtag ‘learn to code’?” he asked.

Dorsey said: “We did some research on this.”

Gadde explained that “there was a situation” about a month ago where journalists were receiving a variety of tweets, some of which contained the phrase “learn to code,” and others that contained threats.

“These were thousands and thousands of tweets being directed at a handful of journalists,” she explained. She said they “did some research” and found that “a number of the accounts” that were tweeting either “learn to code” or other coded language had been previously suspended.

She said that they also learned that there had been a campaign that had been organized off of their platform to abuse and harass the journalists.

“That’s not true,” Pool shot back. “Here’s the thing. An activist who writes for NBC wrote that story, and then lobbied you. You released an official statement and then even the editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller got a suspension for tweeting “learn to code” at ‘The Daily Show.'”

Gadde denied that Twitter ever consulted with NBC on the policy, and repeated that journalists were “receiving death threats and wishes of harm and other coded language” in context with the #LearnToCode hashtag. She added that journalists were being “dogpiled” with hundreds of abusive tweets.

Pool explained why it was important for a media platform as large as Twitter to have neutral policies regarding speech:

You now have a platform that is so powerful in our American discourse that foreign governments are using it as weapons against us. You have rules that go beyond the scope of the U.S. that will restrict American citizens from being able to participate — meanwhile foreign actors are free to do so so long as they follow your rules.

At one point, Gadde didn’t have an answer for Pool’s arguments and simply thanked him for his feedback:

Here’s the entire three-and-a-half-hour conversation: