dropping twitter truth bombs

Jack Dorsey doesn’t think Musk’s Twitter Files drop fulfil a promise of transparency

Twitter’s former CEO would have liked a Wikileaks-style approach instead

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Speaking out about Twitter Files.
Speaking out about Twitter Files.
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey has weighed in on chief Twit Elon Musk’s multi-part exposé around the company’s past content moderation decisions.

Musk has been sharing with a selected number of writers the so-called Twitter Files, documents detailing internal conversations around Twitter’s decision-making over the enforcement of its policies in occasions such as the Hunter Biden laptop story and the 2021 suspension of Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Dorsey, who’s been supportive of Musk’s Twitter takeover but has lately found himself having to correct the new CEO’s record on issues such as the work of the recently disbanded Trust and Safety council, defended his former company’s record.

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“I continue to believe there was no ill intent or hidden agendas, and everyone acted according to the best information we had at the time. Of course mistakes were made. But if we had focused more on tools for the people using the service rather than tools for us, and moved much faster towards absolute transparency, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation of needing a fresh reset (which I am supportive of),” he wrote in a Dec. 13 blogpost.

While the former chief took no issue with the content of the documents, he condemned the way it’s been distributed. He wished they were “released Wikileaks-style, with many more eyes and interpretations to consider,” and with the promise of transparency for present and future actions.

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Taking the conversation further, Dorsey advocated for a “free and open protocol” for social media. And he laid out three principles that he believes will help Twitter and other platforms get there: resilience to corporate and government control; only allowing the original author to remove content they produce; and moderation by algorithmic choice.

Jack Dorsey on…

…resisting corporate and government control

“Allowing a government or a few corporations to own the public conversation is a path towards centralized control.”

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…control of content

“Content takedowns and suspensions should not be possible. Doing so complicates important context, learning, and enforcement of illegal activity.”

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…algorithmic moderation tools

“I don’t believe a centralized system can do content moderation globally. It can only be done through ranking and relevance algorithms, the more localized the better.”

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Open source-alternatives to Twitter

Since announcing Twitter’s acquisition, Musk has advocated to “open source” its algorithm, but his proposal to upload the code to GitHub and let people find and rectify flaws was criticized as ineffective and potentially damaging. Twitter works with not one, but multiple algorithms, and machine learning models can’t be tested by just being looked at with a magnifying glass.

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As Twitter aims to move towards transparency, several other competing platforms are already doing the work. In his note, Dorsey named three: bluesky, the decentralized social network Dorsey commissioned; Mastodon, where several Twitter users fled to after Musk’s tumultuous takeover; and Matrix, which claims to have a user ecosystem topping 40 million.

One big number: Dorsey’s Signal commitment

$1 million: Annual grant Dorsey pledged to encrypted messaging app Signal, as part of his #startsmall initiative. Dorsey started the initiative by putting $1 billion of equity from his other startup, Square, which represented 28% of his wealth at the time, to build covid-19 relief solutions. After the pandemic, he said the funding focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and universal basic income. With this announcement, Dorsey has added “open internet development” to the list of causes, committing cash and equity grants to engineering teams working on social media and private communication protocols, bitcoin, and a web-only mobile OS.

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