The company that once boasted that it was the “free speech wing of the free speech party” says that it can no longer defend the ideals it once stood for, breaking its promise to remain an open platform for free expression.
The executive’s statement is in apparent contradiction to the company’s “fight to defend the open Internet” against the repeal of Net Neutrality, which it claims will curb free expression.
The @FCC's vote to gut #NetNeutrality rules is a body blow to innovation and free expression. We will continue our fight to defend the open Internet and reverse this misguided decision. https://t.co/TXTQWDiBNC
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) December 14, 2017
Appearing alongside policy executives from Facebook and Google, Twitter’s vice president for public policy and communications Sinead McSweeney explained to British politicians on Tuesday why it was so hate speech and extremist content remain prevalent across their social networks.
For three hours into the inquiry on online hate speech, McSweeney acknowledged the platform’s historical support for free speech, and why it is being changed.
“I look back over last 5 and a half years, and the answers I would have given to some of these questions five years ago were very different. Twitter was in a place where it believed the most effective antidote to bad speech was good speech,” said McSweeney, whose remarks implied that the company is shifting its stance.
“It was very much a John Stuart Mill-style philosophy,” said McSweeney, referring to the 19th century philosopher whose classical liberalism laid the groundwork for modern jurisprudence and rational discourse.
“We’ve realized the world we live in has changed. We’ve had to go on a journey with it, and we’ve realized it’s no longer possible to stand up for all speech in the hopes society will become a better place because racism will be challenged, or homophobia challenged, or extremism will be challenged,” he continued, as transcribed by Business Insider.
“And we do have to take steps to limit the visibility of hateful symbols, to ban people from the platform who affiliate with violent groups — that’s the journey we’re on,” McSweeney concluded.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
McSweeney joined the company in 2012 shortly after former Twitter executive Tony Wang first made the famous, if poorly-aged boast about the company’s commitment to free speech.
Years of complaints from social justice warriors and negative media reports about the company’s issues with abuse have taken their toll, prompting the company to crack down on all manner of offensive speech.
Despite claiming to tackle abuse, Twitter has contained its enforcement efforts to the conservative side of the political spectrum, deverifying users like anti-Islam British activist Tommy Robinson, and suspending MILO.