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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says conservatives 'feel silenced' at his heavily liberal company

Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey testifies during a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing about Twitter's transparency and accountability, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day, Dorsey faced questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about how foreign operatives use their platforms in attempts to influence and manipulate public opinion. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said right-leaning staffers at his social media company don’t feel comfortable expressing their views because of the predominately liberal work environment.

What did he say?

“We have a lot of conservative-leaning folks in the company as well, and to be honest, they don’t feel safe to express their opinions at the company,” Dorsey said in an interview published Friday by Recode.

“They do feel silenced by just the general swirl of what they perceive to be the broader percentage of leanings within the company, and I don’t think that’s fair or right,” he added. “We should make sure that everyone feels safe to express themselves within the company, no matter where they come from and what their background is. I mean, my dad was a Republican.”

Dorsey made his comments to Jay Rosen, a Twitter user and journalism professor at New York University. Rosen recorded the conversation with Dorsey and Recode aired it as a podcast and transcribed it.

Twitter stands accused of “shadow-banning” conservative voices, which means their posts are not prominently displayed on the social media platform. Dorsey has denied the practice.

“Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules,” Dorsey said in a prepared statement to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially.”

But his comments in the Recode interview indicate there could be reasons for conservatives to feel concerned.

“I think it’s more and more important to at least clarify what our own bias leans towards, and just express it… I’d rather know what someone biases to rather than try to interpret through their actions,” Dorsey said in the interview.

What is Dorsey doing?

Dorsey said he is working on reaching out and listening to conservatives:

Well, first and foremost, at least I personally have not tended to have conversations with many people in a more conservative end of the spectrum or right end of the spectrum, so goal number one was to say that we’re here, be present, and see the folks who I personally haven’t talked to, and as an organization, we tend not to naturally lean towards, and I don’t know if there are any fundamentally different learnings that are different from the conversations that we have with folks who are more on the left end of the spectrum, more of the liberal end of the spectrum or libertarian end of the spectrum, wherever that lies.

Dorsey said a group of conservatives he spoke with had many questions about how decisions are made, "how the algorithms work, a lot of questions around timeline ranking, and that changed three years ago. It was the first time we really applied machine learning to where people spent the majority of their time within the service, and some confusion about that."

He also said there was "a question" about why there hasn't been "a lot of conversations with people on the more conservative end of the spectrum in the past."

Rosen followed up by asking whether conservatives he talked to accused Twitter of bias.

“The people we talked to didn’t really accuse us of shadow banning their voices,” Dorsey said.

“They asked questions as to whether a bias within the company would translate into the service and into actions, but it was all questions rooted in, ‘I follow this person. Why am I not seeing their tweets in my timeline?’ The majority of the questions I got about shadow banning and bias were either on Twitter or within the Congressional hearing," he explained.

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