The personal cowardice of Jack Dorsey
This past weekend, as has become typical, the country was thrown further into turmoil, and democratic norms further incinerated, when Donald Trump accused President Obama of tapping his phone. Apparently the claims stemmed from a Breitbart re-write of a talk radio rant.
This past weekend, as has become typical, Jack Dorsey watched all of this play out on Twitter, watched the chaos that followed and then decided to do precisely nothing.
I’ve been arguing for a long time that Trump’s use of two Twitter accounts for the same purpose -- a personal one and an official POTUS one -- is in violation of the company’s terms of service. And I’ve argued before that Dorsey has both the ability and the obligation to enforce those terms against a user who has repeatedly threatened, bullied, taunted and lied others in 140 character bursts.
In recent weeks, as America creeps closer to the edge of the precipice, the calls for Dorsey to act have grown louder. This past weekend they grew louder still, including an impassioned argument from House of Cards “creator” Beau Willimon that was the opposite of my own. I’ve said Trump should be banned from the platform in consistency with other banned users, Willimon says that Trump should be banned because he’s different from everyone else:
2. Only one person on @Twitter is President of the United States. That comes with a supreme and unique responsibility unlike any other user.— Beau Willimon (@BeauWillimon) March 4, 2017
(I’d be remiss as a Brit if I didn’t clarify the US media’s credit of Willimon. He is the hugely talented creator of the US TV adaptation of House of Cards, which was “created” by novelist Michael Dobbs.)
We can disagree with the exact rationale for banning Trump, but hopefully we can all agree on one thing: Donald Trump is bad for Twitter, both as a platform and as a company. As CNN reports, thanks to Trump’s terrifying and racist new immigration policies would-be visitors to the United States may soon be asked to hand over their social media passwords for “extreme vetting.” This vetting would reportedly include monitoring public and private messages and tracing friendship graphs.
I’m an immigrant to the United States but I’m lucky (so far) not to be included on the list of people who have attempted to enter the country from a blacklisted country. I’m also not likely to be included in any proposed religious ban. But, as we know, there’s a difference between the letter of the law and the implementation: We’ve seen children’s authors, holocaust historians and even former Norwegian prime ministers held at the border and, in at least one of those cases, the immigration authorities searched the Internet to “verify” information given to the border guards.
The weaponization of social media -- including Twitter --can only have a chilling effect on its use by anyone from outside the US who might one day want to visit or immigrate. Why on earth would anyone risk tweeting anything about Trump, or even anything that might oppose Trump’s worldview, knowing it could be used to detain them at the American border, or worse? If I’m worried about my Tweets coming back to deport me, god only knows how more “at risk” immigrants feel.
This on top of the fact that, thanks again to Trump, Twitter has already become a cesspit of racism, sexim, anti-semitism and a thousand other varieties of hate. That hate too was on clear display this past weekend, in yet another example of the double standards allowed by Twitter towards Trump and his inner circle.
Right after President Trump made his unsupported claims about President Obama, Trump’s longtime friend and advisor Roger Stone took to Twitter to demand the former president be "charged, convicted and jailed." When a Twitter user suggested Stone might be setting himself up for a libel suit, Stone responded "Would enjoy crush u in court and forcing you to eat shit - you stupid ignorant ugly bitch."
Stone’s abusive tweet, and countless more on his timeline, are an absolutely clear violation of Twitter’s anti-abuse terms. Other trolls have been banned for far, far less. The tweets have been widely reported, in the media but also directly to Twitter. And yet, as of the time of writing, Stone’s account remains active.
No matter how dangerously, or nastily, Trump and his friends behave on Twitter, Jack Dorsey does nothing. Nothing but watch his company be poisoned and weaponized by a tyrant.
Why, given Twitter’s stock continues to tank, and given what we know about Twitter’s flatlined user numbers (i.e. that Trump has done next to nothing for Twitter’s growth) and given Dorsey’s self-proclaimed Woke-ness? When when the scuttlebut from inside Twitter is that Dorsey is just as alarmed and horrified by Trump’s tweets as the rest of us.
Why why why won’t Jack Dorsey do something?
At this point there seems to be only one plausible explanation: That Jack Dorsey isn’t just a hypocrite, but he’s also a coward.
That Dorsey is terrified that if he takes action against Trump he personally might become a target or the President and his army of trolls and would rather allow Twitter to implode than put his own head above the parapet. That Dorsey is OK with you or I or millions of others being attacked, abused and threatened by Trump and Co as long as he remains safe.
If that’s true - and I genuinely can’t think of any other possibility -- then it’s time for Jack Dorsey to resign as CEO of Twitter and give the job to someone with the courage required for the task.
If I’m wrong, then the time is long past for him to explain what I and the rest of the world are missing.