Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who has been under fire for failing to police hate speech, harassment, and outright racism on his platform, told podcast host Joe Rogan that “everyone has a right” to social media and that Donald Trump’s use of Twitter wasn’t much different from how previous presidents have used media, comparing him to Barack Obama as president.
“What is social media? Is it something everyone has a right to? Or should it be restricted to only people that are willing to behave and carry themselves in a certain way?” Rogan asked Dorsey on a new episode of his popular podcast that aired Saturday morning.
“I believe it’s something that everyone has a right to,” Dorsey said.
Rogan pushed back. “Everyone has a right to? But you still ban people. Like say, Alex Jones, you guys were the last guys to keep Alex Jones on the platform. You were the last ones. I believe it wasn’t until he started harassing you personally.”
“No,” Dorsey said. “[Jones] did very different things on our platform than others. We saw this domino effect over a weekend of one platform banning him, and then another, and then another, and another, in very, very quick succession, and people might have assumed that we would just follow suit, but he didn’t violate our terms of service. Afterwards, he did.”
Dorsey’s case for keeping Jones hinged on the fact that, while the conspiracy theorist may have posted inflammatory content on other platforms, his behavior on Twitter hadn’t specifically violated the site’s terms of service until he harassed a CNN journalist. Last week, Twitter users flooded laid-off journalists with death threats and the platform did virtually nothing.
Still, just seconds later, Dorsey was making the opposite argument.
Rogan brought up that Trump’s conduct on Twitter could be seen has encouraging violence—like, for instance, dangling the threat of nuclear war with North Korea. Dorsey said Rogan needed to look at Trump’s tweets in “context” of other media.
“It was the context that presidents of this country have used similar language on different mediums,” Dorsey said. “They say it on radio, they say it on television. If you were to look at President Obama, it wasn’t the exact same tone, but there were threats surrounding the same country. We have to take that context into consideration.”
Dorsey didn’t specify what, exactly, Obama did that was similar to Trump. The former president once noted the fact that “we could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals” but didn’t threaten to do so.
The other reason for keeping Trump’s tweets, Dorsey said, was they they were newsworthy.
“Public figures might be in violation of our terms of service, but the tweet itself is of public interest,” he said “It should be talked about. That is probably the thing people disagree with the most, and where we have a lot of internal debate. If we had a public leader, like the president of the United States, make a violent threat against a private individual, we would take action.”
Dorsey seemed to go a little further with the possibility of doing something about Trump, a little more than a week an interview with Huffington Post. When asked what Twitter would do if Trump asked his followers to murder a journalist, Dorsey only said then that he would “certainly talk about it.”