Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has defended his company’s decision to continue publishing the controversial tweets of the American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, saying Jones’s content “hasn’t violated our rules”.
Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify have all banned Jones from their platforms, saying he promoted hate speech and violence, but Twitter had allowed Jones to continue posting on the platform. Dorsey said the company was committed to promoting “a healthy conversational environment” – which included Jones.
“We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” he said.
“If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.”
Jones, who is being sued by the parents of children murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting for claiming the attack was a hoax, is the host of the daily Alex Jones Show podcast, and his platform Infowars produces another five podcasts.
Dorsey said it was the responsibility of journalists to police accounts such as Jones’ for accuracy and fairness.
“Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions,” said Dorsey. “This is what serves the public conversation best.”
Facebook’s and YouTube’s enforcement action against Jones came hours after Apple removed Jones from its podcast directory on 6 August.
Publishing platforms have faced strong pressure to take action against Jones and Infowars over the past few months, but Apple was the first major company to sanction the broadcaster in its entirety.
Dorsey directed readers towards an article further explaining Twitter’s rules. “Twitter is reflective of real conversations happening in the world and that sometimes includes perspectives that may be offensive, controversial, and/or bigoted,” the document read. “While we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we prohibit targeted behaviour that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others.”
Twitter remains the lone major social network to still allow Jones unfettered access and the broadcaster has a “verified” account. An increasing number of Twitter users have started campaigning for the site to bar Jones and accusing Dorsey of seeking to shift responsibility to journalists.
Since founding Infowars in 1999, Jones has built a vast audience. Among the theories he has promoted is that the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington were staged by the government. He has also promoted an untrue theory that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked by left-wing forces to promote gun control. The shooting killed 26 children and adults at the elementary school in Connecticut.