Jack Dorsey wants social media users to be in control over their content, not companies or governments. This is the thesis of his lengthy blog post which you can read here. I’m going to break it down and analyze his wishes for “a native internet protocol for social media.”
Jack Dorsey’s Principles For Social Media Moving Forward
In his blog post the former Twitter CEO says he has the following three principles for social media in today’s world:
- Social media must be resilient to corporate and government control.
- Only the original author may remove content they produce.
- Moderation is best implemented by algorithmic choice.
These principles will give users back control over social media and hopefully reduce bans, suspensions, and censorship.
Jack Dorsey Explains Why He Left Twitter
A big reason why the Twitter co-founder wants users to take back control over social media because of what happen to him during his second tenure as Twitter’s CEO. Jack Dorsey said he “completely gave up pushing for them [his aforementioned principles] when an activist entered our stock in 2020. I no longer had hope of achieving any of it as a public company with no defense mechanisms (lack of dual-class shares being a key one). I planned my exit at that moment knowing I was no longer right for the company.”
As a former Twitter employee (I worked at the company at the Atlanta data center from October 2017 to December 2020) I saw Jack give up. It’s no secret during his last tenure as CEO he wasn’t present. Especially during the last year of his leadership. He was more interested in his second company, Square. Or discussing cryptocurrency. Twitter wasn’t his priority and I expected him to leave the company or be forced out by the activist investor. And as Jack just gave up on changing Twitter for the better I saw it was time for me to leave. However, that wasn’t the main reason for my departure because I had issues with the decisions made by the management in my department. Even after trying for over a year to implement changes to improve the processes in my department I gave up and left Twitter.
His Biggest Mistake
Jack Dorsey said his biggest mistake at Twitter was “continuing to invest in building tools for us to manage the public conversation, versus building tools for the people using Twitter to easily manage it for themselves. This burdened the company with too much power, and opened us to significant outside pressure (such as advertising budgets).”
And I agree with this admission. I saw Twitter turn into a company seeking open conversation to shutting down conversation deemed “problematic.” Thus, Twitter as a platform became dull and negative. I originally joined the platform before working at the company because I enjoyed reading funny tweets and even the “problematic” ones. Hence, I learned about different viewpoints and investigated them to see why people thought that way. As the company became heavy-handed in its moderation the funny tweets disappeared and users became angry. Twitter as a platform wasn’t fun anymore and I deleted my first account in 2018 while working at the company.
When a company has to seek income from outside parties, meaning not their customers, they have to bow to those parties’ whims. Thus, Twitter became beholden to the advertisers since that’s how the company made money. And they had to make the shareholders happy because they wanted a return on their investment.
How Companies And Governments Control Social Media Today
Jack says companies control social media by controlling users’ speech on their platform. We can see this through bans, suspensions, content warnings, and fact checks.
As for governments, Jack Dorsey correctly states “governments want to shape and control the public conversation, and will use every method at their disposal to do so, including the media. It’s critical that the people have tools to resist this, and that those tools are ultimately owned by the people. Allowing a government or a few corporations to own the public conversation is a path towards centralized control.”
How Jack Dorsey Will Help Users Take Back Control
The Twitter co-founder states he believes the “only way I know of to truly live up to these 3 principles is a free and open protocol for social media, that is not owned by a single company or group of companies, and is resilient to corporate and government influence.” However, this is difficult to do today since companies and some governments own both the protocol and how users find content online.
To give users back control individuals should get together to build an open protocol for social media, one that doesn’t feature centralization. Thus, no one companies or government can control it or even moderate it. Jack Dorsey wants users to moderate content themselves using “ranking and relevance algorithms.” Users can configure the algorithms to show them only particular content, or not use them at all to see everything.
I like this approach and I hope to see it come to fruition. I also believe that users should have control over what they see online, not the companies or governments. However, I don’t know if these principles will actually push through because there are plenty of people within various companies and governments who don’t want users to have control over theirs or others’ content. They want to control exactly what they see and how they see it.