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Twitter CEO Dorsey goes on Hannity to defend racist posts, Alex Jones

Jack Dorsey is defending himself as one of the highest-profile holdouts in a tech industry ban against Jones and his Infowars publication.

Jack Dorsey
Teresa Kroeger / Getty Images

Jack Dorsey isn't bowing to public pressure.

The Twitter CEO is no stranger to criticism over his company's mishandling of harassment and hate speech on his service. But this week, he attracted even more when tech industry titans including Apple, YouTube, Facebook and Spotify began banning conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars publication, citing violations of their community policies. Twitter, Dorsey said Tuesday, would not follow suit because Jones had not crossed the line on its service.

On Wednesday, Dorsey went on the Sean Hannity Show, a radio program by the popular conservative political pundit, to discuss his company's decision and what it does about "overt racists." 

Dorsey told Hannity, who has 3.6 million followers, that Twitter believes "in the power of free expression," but acknowledged the need "to balance that with the bad-faith actors who intentionally try to silence others."

And, he admitted, "We'll certainly miss things." 

The moves mark a dramatic defense of Twitter's unpopular decisions following the tech industry's steadfast response to Jones and Infowars. At its heart, the tech industry has had to weigh its commitment to free speech against Jones' claims, such as that the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012 was a hoax (not true) and that the survivors of a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school were "crisis actors" (false.)

Dorsey hasn't directly defended attacking dead children and their grieving parents, but he has argued that he can't be expected to play nanny to people who don't necessarily do these things on Twitter. 

"We know that's hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn't violated our rules. We'll enforce if he does," Dorsey tweeted Tuesday. "And we'll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren't artificially amplified."

Dorsey continued defending his decisions to Hannity, who at one point in the interview, argued that maybe the community on Twitter should decide such issues.

"We do believe in the power of free expression, but we need to balance that with the bad-faith actors who intentionally try to silence others," he said. "Any sort of violent speech [and] harassment is against our terms of service, and we would take action."

Twitter didn't immediately respond to a request for an interview with Dorsey. On Twitter Wednesday, Dorsey said the appearance on Hannity's radio program has been planned "for weeks."

First published Aug. 8 at 1:56 p.m. PT.
Update at 2:43 p.m.: Adds context throughout and an additional quote from Dorsey. 

Infowars and Silicon Valley: Everything you need to know about the tech industry's free speech debate.

iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.