In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, social media has been in upheaval as platforms like Facebook and Twitter stand accused of having been lax about fake news and fake users. The possibility that they may have unknowingly facilitated foreign influence campaigns continues to loom large, and their efforts to correct the problem have been mixed.
Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey recently went on a media tour to address concerns about the past and about the upcoming midterm elections (where Democrats may gain the majority in the House of Representatives, the Senate, or even both), and he sat down with Twitter guru Jay Rosen for a long interview going over politics and more.
Recode has produced a full transcript of the discussion, and Dorsey is at times surprisingly frank about his views. Several major social media platforms have been accused by conservatives of censoring their views, and he had this to say about his media tour: "[A]t least I personally have not tended to have conversations with many people in a more conservative end of the spectrum or right end of the spectrum, so goal number one was to say that we're here, be present, and see the folks who I personally haven't talked to."
Twitter (Android, iOS) was originally created in an arguably anti-establishment environment. According to the book Hatching Twitter, several of their first few hires were borderline anarchist, and the company was founded in San Francisco, a city well-known for its counter-culture perspective. (Facebook, for its part, was founded just to the south in Menlo Park, and it arrived with its own skepticism about the status quo, according to The Facebook Effect.)
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The concern among some conservatives is that the political preferences of Twitter staff have influenced their decisions about right-wing accounts on the platform.
To this, Dorsey says, "We have a lot of conservative-leaning folks in the company as well, and to be honest, they don't feel safe to express their opinions at the company. They do feel silenced by just the general swirl of what they perceive to be the broader percentage of leanings within the company, and I don't think that's fair or right."
It's unusual for a CEO to discuss internal staff sentiments so candidly, but Twitter finds itself in an unusual place, shutting down millions of accounts and sometimes targeting specific and very high-profile users who have a vocal following.
Still, Dorsey believes that Twitter can and should remain an open platform, as one of its distinguishing features, instead of making it invite-only or reviewing individual applications to join.
He says, "I do think we have an advantage of everything being on the surface, and I would hate to lose that. So that is not something that I rest on, because we have definitely been gamed, and we have definitely been utilized to manipulate people. I think that intention will only grow. I think people continue to find new ways, like we saw the Russian government during 2016."
We'll see in November how effective they've become at filtering out fake news and fake accounts.
- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has gone on a media tour to talk about foreign election interference, U.S. politics, and the state of the company's efforts to fight fake news and fake Twitter accounts.
- Dorsey says that Twitter has "definitely" been used by bad actors to influence the public's political views.
- Twitter is testing threaded replies and wants your feedback
- Twitter is fighting spam by limiting tweets, likes, follows, and direct messages from third-party apps
- Twitter disables core features on third party apps like Tweetbot with recent API changes
- Twitter bots were 2.5 times more effective than humans in US presidential debate (CNET)
- How to remove bots and trolls and clean up your Twitter feed in seconds (ZDNet)
- What to expect from cyber-attacks during an election year (TechRepublic)