Twitter founder Jack Dorsey issued a warning on the social network’s state and prospects, saying it meets none of the standards he hoped to achieve and that harassment of its staff is shortsighted and dangerous. It’s time to move on, as he’s said before, and to that end he’s funding new efforts in “open internet development,” starting with $1 million per year to Signal.
Starting in a Twitter thread but quickly transitioning to a blog post (“I don’t want to edit everything into 280 char chunks,” he wrote — shade he probably never anticipated throwing), Dorsey said that his hope to build a Twitter according to his wishes died in 2020 with the entrance of an unnamed activist investor.
“I planned my exit at that moment knowing I was no longer right for the company,” he wrote.
The principles he had hoped to build on — resilience to corporate and government control, user-controlled content with no exceptions and algorithmic moderation — are not present in today’s Twitter, nor in the one he led, he admitted.
Even so, he wrote that, contrary to the insinuations accompanying the so-called Twitter Files, “there was no ill intent or hidden agendas, and everyone acted according to the best information we had at the time.”
The various threads have been very selective in what they show and what they redact, while casting certain staff, particularly former head of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth, as being power-mad and agenda-driven. Roth reportedly experienced harassment in person serious enough that he had to temporarily leave his home. On the whole there is little new in what has been published beyond a handful of convenient scapegoats for imagined abuse.
Of this Dorsey says:
As for the files, I wish they were released Wikileaks-style, with many more eyes and interpretations to consider. And along with that, commitments of transparency for present and future actions. I’m hopeful all of this will happen. There’s nothing to hide…only a lot to learn from. The current attacks on my former colleagues could be dangerous and doesn’t solve anything. If you want to blame, direct it at me and my actions, or lack thereof.
Be careful what you wish for, Jack.
The conversations themselves, as I wrote last week, do in fact constitute a very interesting look at the difficulty of moderation under unprecedented circumstances. The frank and open discussion of how to interpret a rule or what action they should or shouldn’t take is exactly what one would hope is happening behind the scenes of such a process. Imputations of bias have little or no documentary weight behind them, beyond whatever is lent by a carefully curated presentation openly intended to promote that narrative.
As to actual solutions, Dorsey is of course hard at work (or at least present) at Bluesky, but he calls out Mastodon and Matrix as other worthwhile avenues for development:
There will be many more. One will have a chance at becoming a standard like HTTP or SMTP. This isn’t about a “decentralized Twitter.” This is a focused and urgent push for a foundational core technology standard to make social media a native part of the internet.
Putting his money where his mouth is, he announced that he’ll start by funding Signal (definitely resilient to governments) to the tune of $1 million/year. More grants are forthcoming, he said, and solicited recommendations. And fortunately, since what appeared to be his personal email was inadvertently published by Matt Taibbi in the first Twitter Files thread, everyone should be able to get in touch.