Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is no ‘crusader’ of free speech. Here is why

Jack Dorsey poses as a 'crusader of free speech' but he isn't one

On Monday (June 12), Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey courted controversy after he accused the Indian government of coercing him to withhold accounts of journalists, who were critical of the government during the farmers’ protest.

While speaking to the Youtube channel ‘Breaking Points’, he claimed, “India for example is a country that had many requests of us around the farmer’s protest around particular journalists that were critical of the government.”

“And it manifested in ways such as, ‘we will shut put her down in India’ – which is a very large market for us – we will raid the homes of your employees, which they did, we will shut down your offices if you don’t follow suit. And this is India, a democratic country,” Jack Dorsey further alleged.

His outrageous claims were debunked by Rajeev Chandrasekhar in a detailed statement on Twitter. The Union Minister pointed out how Twitter, under the supervision of Jack Dorsey, was blatantly violating Indian laws and had complete disregard for the sovereignty of India.

He added how ‘partisan’ Jack Dorsey was involved in de-platforming and de-amplifying voices that he did not agree with politically. The ex-Twitter CEO’s run-in with India and the incumbent political dispensation at the Centre is not new.

Nonetheless, this gave an opportunity to the usual suspects to resort to anti-India propaganda. After touting Dorsey’s claims as the ‘gospel truth’, left-liberals and Islamists cast aspersions on the integrity of the Modi government.

The many controversies of Jack Dorsey

This is not the first time that the former Twitter CEO had a run-in with India and its government. Back in May 2018, Jack Dorsey stirred the hornet’s nest by posing with a Hinduphobic placard, designed by an anti-Brahmin activist named Thenmozhi Soundararajan.

“Smash Brahmanical patriarchy”, the placard read. Over the years, ‘Brahmanical patriarchy’ has become the dog whistle, used by liberals and Islamists alike, to openly rebuke the Hindu community.

Jack Dorsey later claimed to have no knowledge about the content of the placard and even ‘Twitter India’ distanced itself from the controversy.

Around the same time, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee initiated a review of Jack Dorsey’s statements, which he gave under oath before the committee in September 2018. It is a federal crime to provide false testimony to Congress.

The hearing was about Twitter’s alleged arbitrary censorship of content published on the site. US Conservatives had often accused the platform of discrimination and silencing their voices to favour the progressives.

In October 2020, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate approved subpoenas against Jack Dorsey regarding the censorship of anti-Biden stories on the micro-blogging site.

Even the Indian government had sent a strong warning to the Twitter founder for showing Leh as part of China on the social media platform.

In June 2021,  Jack Dorsey was heckled by one activist Laura Loomer during the Bitcoin 2021 conference organised in Miami in the United States. The incident took place after Loomer was aghast at the censorship rules of the micro-blogging site.

“Censorship is human rights violation…It’s almost as if Twitter hates Jews and conservatives. When is Jack Dorsey going to stop censoring conservatives? When am I going to get my Twitter back? I’ll be here as long as it takes,” she was quoted as saying. 

Jack Dorsey was also caught endorsing tweets hailing Hollywood singer-actress Rihanna’s intervention into India’s domestic politics.

Rihanna, along with former porn star Mia Khalifa and child protestors such as Greta Thunberg, interfered in the country’s internal affairs by endorsing violence in the name of supporting ‘farmer’ protests, causing a massive backlash against these so-called international celebrities. 

Kangana’s now-removed Tweet in response to Rihanna’s Tweet

Around the same time, Twitter removed a tweet by Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, criticising the farmer’s protest. “We have taken action on Tweets that were in violation of the Twitter Rules in line with our range of enforcement options,” it said in a statement.

Twitter and the ongoing saga of Censorship

While Jack Dorsey had been falsely accusing the Indian government of censorship, it must be mentioned that his own platform had been at the helm of arbitrarily suspending/terminating the accounts of right-wing handles.

In December 2018, Twitter’s legal team promptly sent official correspondence to two vocal critics of radical Islam, namely, Imam Tawhidi and Ensaf Haider for supposedly ‘violating Pakistani law’.

In March 2019, Opindia reported how Twitter censored the account of history buff ‘True Indology’ for exposing the distorted claims of ‘communal harmony’ in Jammu and Kashmir, as espoused by leftist propaganda outlet NDTV.

‘True Indology’ had simply pointed out that the Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir never accepted a Hindu Chief Minister and that never even elected a single Hindu from their region.

One of the most notable cases of censorship was the termination of the Twitter account of former US President Donald Trump. The fourth tranche of Twitter Files revealed how former Safety Head Yoel Roth flouted all rules to ban Donald Trump, despite being alarmed by junior employees.

At that time, Jack Dorsey had revealed that the attempt to silence and ban conservative opinion-makers is not just limited to Donald Trump. He pointed out that the censorship will continue, well past the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

He told employees, “We know we are focused on one account right now, but this is going to be much bigger than just one account, and it’s going to go on for much longer than just this day, this week, the next few weeks, going on beyond inauguration. We have to expect that. We have to be ready for that.”

Twitter Files had revealed how the micro-blogging platform became a hotbed of censorship through the creation of blacklists, arbitrary prevention of tweets from trending on the platform and deliberate reduction of visibility of trending topics and accounts.

In September 2022, the current Twitter owner Elon Musk even hit out at Twitter Inc. for ‘suppressing’ his tweets. He had also asked Twitter, Twitter Verified and then-CEO Parag Agarwal to fix it.

Several accounts were gutted under the pretext of Covid-19 misinformation. In December 2022, American journalist Bari Weiss pointed out how Dr Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of health policy at Stanford University, was one of the victims of the high-handedness of a ‘select few’ employees at Twitter

Weiss highlighted how Bhattacharya’s tweets were blocked from trending because he claimed that Covid-19 lockdowns could harm children.

“Still trying to process my emotions on learning that @twitter blacklisted me. The thought that will keep me up tonight: censorship of scientific discussion permitted policies like school closures & a generation of children were hurt,” tweeted the Stanford professor after learning about the matter.

Twitter was also criticised for censoring the ‘Hunter Biden laptop’ story and failing to take down child porn from its site.

Twitter had been challenging the Indian govt for a long time

In August 2022, Opindia reported how Elon Musk flagged Twitter’s risky litigation against the Indian government.

“Twitter has terminated its product lead and another key executive, retained a board member whose reelection was rejected by stockholders, instituted a hiring freeze, and disobeyed orders from and initiated risky litigation against the Indian government—thereby placing Twitter’s third largest market at risk,” he had said.

Earlier in February 2019, Twitter CEO and top officials had declined to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology, headed by Anurag Thakur, which had issued a summons to Twitter over the issue of safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media platforms.

It may be recalled how in February 2021, Twitter decided to put its own rules above Indian laws and refused to withhold or suspend accounts accused of inciting violence in the country. 

It cited freedom of speech and expression as per the Indian Constitution for news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians for refusing to take action against the offending accounts.

Interestingly, the Indian Constitution’s Article 19 which serves freedom of speech and expression does not specify the press or associated persons as separate entities.

Having said that, left liberals and Islamists are now trying to use the statement of Jack Dorsey to malign the Indian government. It comes as no wonder that fears about social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook interfering in India’s electoral process have only increased with time.

Featured Image: Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, photo credits – Marco Bellow/ AFP

Note: This article was first published in Opindia on June 13, 2023.