With bags under his eyes and a ring in his nose, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sat down with NBC’s Lester Holt on Wednesday (Aug. 15) to talk about the decision to temporarily suspend the account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from the social-media platform. But instead of sounding like the leader of two multibillion-dollar companies, Dorsey came across like a disappointed father.
“I believe we put [Jones] in a timeout, removing his ability to tweet for a time period,” Dorsey said.
One week prior, Dorsey had tweeted his decision not to ban Jones or his media company, Infowars, from the platform. After a week of inaction, Dorsey reversed course. Yesterday, Twitter froze Jones’s account for seven days, after he posted a video calling on his supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready to fight the media. Today, Twitter extended the seven-day suspension to Infowars for sharing the same video.
Holt pushed back on Dorsey, claiming that a timeout seemed like a minor punishment compared to the implications of someone suggesting a call to arms against a particular group. But Dorsey held his ground. “Any suspension, whether it be a permanent one or a temporary one, makes someone think about their actions and behaviors,” he said.
Though the decision to take action against Jones is arguably overdue (Apple, YouTube, and Facebook all removed the majority of Jones’s content from their platforms last week), the relatively light punishment seems indicative of a CEO struggling to figure out how to manage the platform he helped create.
Tech journalist Casey Newton at The Verge likened Twitter’s punishment to a digital detox.
The drama of the last week—in which Twitter was criticized by current and former employees for its initial stance—highlights the tension between Twitter’s desire to stay consistent in the enforcement of its policies while at the same time evolving its policies to better protect its users.
Hopefully seven days will give Dorsey enough time to figure it out.