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[AK] Why Providing a Platform for Conspiracy Theorist is Harmful

Source: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/9/17664752/alex-jones-twitter-ban-jack-dorsey-infowars

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, refuses to ban conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from his platform, unlike what other companies (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) have done. In defending his decision, he says:

“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. This is what serves the public conversation best.”

Why is this argument flawed? Because the way conspiracy theories works is that they create an isolated community that’ll completely reject any form of clarification once they’re exposed to an information that fits to what they already believe about the world (ex: People who is alerted that the government wants to take away people’s guns is likely to be convinced to the saying that school shootings is just a hoax). Any clarifications will only solidify their beliefs. So the only way to fight them is by taking away all their possible platforms.

Jack Dorsey doesn’t seem to have this understanding, which is an even bigger problem; we’re living in a world where tech companies are increasingly forced to deal with these social related issues, other examples includes how to best protect people’s privacy, etc. The issues are two:

1. Tech companies are experts in business and tech, not social issues. So there is a big likelihood of tech company leaders making these kinds of decisions wrong.

2. Tech companies are not government, which means that they’re not very accountable to society, and that makes it hard for people to control them.

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/8/17662774/twitter-alex-jones-jack-dorsey

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, refuses to ban conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from his platform, unlike what other companies (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) has done. In defending his decision, he claims that the issue surrounding Jones is “politicized”, that “Twitter shouldn’t be an arbiter of truth”, and that “we need media to clarify what Jones is actually saying”.

Jones and his “Infowars” platform is a hate speech and harassment propagator that does a lot of harm to people. The parents of Noah Power, a 6-year-old child who died in the Sandy Hook shootings have to move houses 7 times in 5 years to avoid harassment from people who believe Jones’ claim that Sandy Hook was a hoax. A pizza store in Washington DC was literally invaded by a man with AR-15 assault rifle because he believed it hosts Hillary Clinton’s pedophilia prostitution ring as claimed by Jones.

By choosing to treat the Alex Jones issue in the semantic sense, as in not banning him because he didn’t explicitly fulfill what Twitter rules considers a violation, Dorsey is essentially saying that he doesn’t view this issue in a moral sense and would rather profit from his accounts’ existence. Fighting against distortion of reality is not political, clarifying has been done by journalists, but it’s completely unaccepted by people who believe in conspiracy theories. By denying all this, Dorsey is objectively acting immorally.

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