For Edward Snowden, who is currently seeking asylum in Moscow, Twitter is one of the few connections that still exists to the public around the world.
On Dec. 13, the Pardon Snowden campaign organized a Q&A session between Twitter’s chief executive officer Jack Dorsey and Snowden over Twitter-owned video broadcasting site Periscope. The conversation initially meandered around Snowden’s well-documented exposé of mass surveillance by the US government. Then, Dorsey asked Snowden to try his hand at another hard-to-crack dilemma: how to fix Twitter.
“What would you like to see us do? What would you like to see us improve?” Dorsey asked.
Snowden, like the rest of us, is frustrated by some of Twitter’s features. He wasn’t shy about sharing them.
First, he highlighted the micro-blogging platform’s frustrating character constraints. “The fact that when you add a picture to a tweet, you lose 22 characters, that’s painful,” Snowden said about how Twitter previously functioned. He applauded Twitter for remedying that—since September, the platform has excluded photos, gifs, videos, polls and quoted tweets from the 140 character limit.
The former CIA employee suggested Twitter work harder to stop users from leaving the app window. “The clicking-through actions don’t work. it breaks the user experience there,” Snowden said, referring to how third-party webpages open up in your browser whenever you click on a link to an article. “People don’t like seeing the window change.” Drawing from Facebook’s Instant Articles, Twitter could offer a solution integrated in its main app.
There’s another page Twitter should take out of Facebook’s playbook: the ability to tweak tweets after they’ve gone out into the world. After Kim Kardashian personally emailed Dorsey about a similar feature, the microblogging platform argued that it was an impossibly bad idea. “The challenge is that you embed tweets, people retweet you everywhere,” then-head of product Kevin Weil said in Oct. 2015. “You wouldn’t want a world where somebody said something, you retweeted it—so it came from you, essentially you are representing their content—then suddenly they change it.”
Snowden’s solution? An “edited” tag that lets you view previous iterations of a tweets. (Once gain, à la Facebook.)
After the one-hour conversation had concluded, Snowden took to Twitter to make one more all-important suggestion. True to his anti-surveillance spirit, Snowden requested disappearing private messages: