Twitter Admits Mistakes in Handling of The ‘Learn to Code’ Controversy as Suspensions For Using the Phrase Continue

Earlier this year, in response to layoffs at online news outlets such as Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post, Twitter users began to parrot the phrase “learn to code” as a response to the announcements. The phrase was used to mock out-of-work journalists, who had previously offered the same snarky advice to blue collar workers whose work prospects were threatened by automation and the push towards renewable fuel sources. The use of the phrase was soon classified as ‘abusive behavior’ by Twitter, and accounts caught saying the three-word piece of advice found their accounts locked or even outright banned from the platform.

On the recent March 6th episode of the popular podcast Joe Rogan Experience, host Joe Rogan and independent journalist Tim Pool sat down with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Twitter Legal, Public Policy & Trust and Safety Lead Vijaya Gadde to discuss various Twitter related subjects and controversies:

Among the various topics discussed over the 3-hour program was the ‘learn to code’ controversy, prompted by Pool asking, “Why are people being kicked off for tweeting hashtag learn to code?” In response, Gadde provided details on the company’s vague policy toward the phrase:

“So there was a situation about a month ago or so where a number of journalists were receiving a variety of tweets, some containing ‘learn to code,’ some containing a bunch of other coded language that was wishes of harm. These were thousands and thousands of tweets being directed at a handful of journalists and we did some research and what we found was a number of the accounts which were engaging in this behavior…were actually ban-evasion accounts. That means accounts that were previously suspended. And we also learned that there was a targeted campaign being organized off our platform to abuse and harass these journalists.”

However, Pool and Rogan pushed back, with Pool stating that this narrative was patently false and Rogan providing the contextual history of the phrases’ origin as a meme. This prompted Gadde to explain that Twitter was making judgement calls based on their perception of the meme, regardless of the actual context:

“A lot of the accounts tweeting ‘learn to code’ were ban evaders, which means they’d previously been suspended. A lot of the accounts or tweets had other language in them like ‘day of the brick,’ ‘day of the rope,’ ‘oven ready’ — these are all coded meanings for violence against people. And so, in that particular case, we made the judgment call, and it is a judgment call, to take down the tweets that were responding directly to these journalists that were saying ‘learn to code’ even if they didn’t have a wish of harm specifically attached to them because of what we viewed as coordinated attempt to harass them … And we were worried that ‘learn to code’ was taking on a different meaning in that particular context.”

Gadde would take responsibility for Twitter’s judgement calls, stating “There were for sure mistakes in there. I don’t think that any of us are claiming we got this 100% right.” Dorsey also admitted that “we probably were way too aggressive when we first saw this and made mistakes.”

Yet, Despite admitting to being over zealous in their policing of the phrase while lacking proper context, Twitter users still found that their accounts had action taken against them for using the phrase:

Amidst the confusion of Twitter’s policies and actions, some users began to circulate an old Tweet made by Dorsey in 2013, wherein the Twitter CEO himself uses the forbidden phrase:

Twitter users began to mockingly report Jack’s tweet as hate speech while others pointed out that Dorsey should be held to the same standards as other users on the platform:

What do you make of Twitter continuing to suspend accounts after they admitted they had made mistakes when it comes to “learn to code?”

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