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January 17, 2019 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Jack Dorsey Has No Clue What He Wants: A Q&A with Twitter’s CEO on right-wing extremism, Candace Owens, and what he’d do if the president called on his followers to murder journalists. [Ashley Feinberg, HuffPo]
What do you mean by clearer actions within the product?
"Just, you know, finding the report button isn’t the most obvious and intuitive right now. So that certainly slows things down."
But what’s the alternative to that?
"Making it more obvious? I don’t ... I mean, I’m not going to ... I don’t know what it looks like right now, but we know what’s wrong with it. So, you know, that’s what we’re working on."
In other words, the most the CEO of Twitter was able to tell me about specific steps being taken to solve the rampant, site-wide harassment problem that’s plagued the platform for years is that they’re looking into maybe making the report button a little bigger, eventually.
posted by Atom Eyes (71 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
It amazes me how people so indecisive and wishy-washy can end up being in charge of so much. Whatever happened to "Strong opinions, weakly held"?
posted by SansPoint at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2019 [9 favorites]

That's because he doesn't have any interest in trying to fix it:
Well, Ali Akbar’s had a series of tweets, I’m just going to read a couple excerpts for you. “Anti-white comments from Jewish anti-Trump commentator Bill Kristol.” “Jake Tapper who is a Jewish left-leaning journalist.” “The conservative Jewish publication The Daily Wire.” He has a whole series of these, and he seems like a very specific kind of figure to reach out to. Were you aware of his past comments and his tendency to identify which members of the media are Jews?

I don’t act on all of his comments. I listen, and I think that’s the most important thing. I was introduced to him by a friend, and you know, he’s got interesting points. I don’t obviously agree with most. But, I think the perspective is interesting.

But do you think that by virtue of who you are and the fact that you, Jack Dorsey, are seeking input from this person, that it elevates him or validates his views?

No, no. I mean, if I followed his direction, then certainly. But it’s just input.
You don't go out and get "interesting" "perspective" from a Jew-counter if you have any serious commitment to addressing these problems. I'm not sure how solvable the problems even really are, but this conversation makes it clear there's no good faith effort to work on them.
posted by zachlipton at 2:22 PM on January 17, 2019 [63 favorites]

can't wait for the usual jack defenders to show up and tortuously defend his antisemitism. i have nothing but heartburn and time, folks.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:23 PM on January 17, 2019 [50 favorites]

So it’s this concept of conversational health. So it’s what’s pinned to my profile. We kicked off this initiative to first try to measure the health of conversation. And then second, as we build solutions around it, how do we tell if we’re doing the right work? Because we don’t have a lot of great metrics as to whether the things that we’re doing are working well.

How much is this fucking company worth again?
posted by nubs at 2:26 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

My suspicion is that @Jack is alt-right. There are a lot of tech alt-right people who keep their mouths shut about it, and I don't see how you could make the vast array of pro-fascist decisions he's made unless you were.

It's like that reporting about white supremacist cops - I think that, should society survive long enough to have deep research on this period, we're going to find that a lot of these top tech brass and a lot of other people who depend on mainstream or vaguely left dollars for their business are actually white supremacists.
posted by Frowner at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2019 [105 favorites]

strongly wish journalists and political types weren't addicted to Twitter. even if nazis were banned etc, the site is still designed to drive ordinary people into extremely deranged social behavior.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2019 [30 favorites]

Frowner: I genuinely believe that Jack Dorsey isn't so much Alt-Right as an indecisive moron who doesn't want to commit to anything one way or the other. Everything he says reads like a more verbose version of the Neutral Aliens from Futurama.
posted by SansPoint at 2:36 PM on January 17, 2019 [9 favorites]

Ashley Feinberg is a treasure, she really is. One of the funniest writers out there, but also deadly, deadly serious.
posted by JamesBay at 2:40 PM on January 17, 2019 [14 favorites]

Sounds like they're cool with pretty much anything that stands to profit them and will only hold people to the ToS if the calculus is that it's a bigger liability not to do so. Not that surprising honestly, but disappointing.

The real surprise for me was his response that they'd "certainly talk about it" if someone in government was using the platform to actively call for a murder of a specific person. Because then he follows up with "We’ve established protocol, it’s transparent."? No... leaving it at "we'd certainly talk about it" is pretty much the opposite of a clear policy or transparency. It's a straight up refusal to universally commit to your own ToS.
posted by -1 at 2:46 PM on January 17, 2019 [15 favorites]

what a fucking dipshit
posted by JimBennett at 2:52 PM on January 17, 2019 [26 favorites]

I don’t know whether Jack is alt-right, but reading that interview I am left with the sense that, if an ordinary person were to have been as richly rewarded as the makers of Facebook and Twitter have been, I think they would be haunted by a deep and abiding and terrifying nihilism.
posted by gauche at 2:56 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

I genuinely believe that Jack Dorsey isn't so much Alt-Right as an indecisive moron who doesn't want to commit to anything one way or the other.

We have a word for someone who works with Nazis in order to profit - Nazi.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:57 PM on January 17, 2019 [96 favorites]

Frowner: I genuinely believe that Jack Dorsey isn't so much Alt-Right as an indecisive moron who doesn't want to commit to anything one way or the other.
That's believable for a lot of very early startup's behavior (in the world-on-fire-releasing-200x-a-day years). But IMHO at some point you sort of have to assume that a more reflective person would realize that they're at the very least providing cover for some really quite unpleasant if not dangerous people. What's that common legal phrase? "Knew or should have known"?
posted by -1 at 3:00 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

to truly believe that actual nazi viewpoints are a matter of interesting debate is to inherently be a white supremacist. you don't have to be burning crosses while wearing sheets in order to be one. all you have to do is think hate speech is a valid point of view. it's not that difficult to understand.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:10 PM on January 17, 2019 [130 favorites]

and the possibility that he himself might be too stupid to understand that doesn't negate the fact itself either. just like how truly and deeply and strongly believing that god says being gay is wrong doesn't mean that this belief isn't itself undeniably homophobic. it's 2019, stupidity and god are no longer shields for the powerful's hate.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:16 PM on January 17, 2019 [40 favorites]

Twitter is so entertaining and so engrossing and so practical for certain tasks that it simply HAS to be good, right?

[remembers that methamphetamine was given to Allied bomber pilots in WWII for similar reasons]
posted by infinitewindow at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

Most alt-right types are fundamentally very stupid, and quite a few are nihilistic opportunists out to make a quick buck or find a source of narcissistic supply, rather than people who are acting from, or capable of having, deep convictions. It doesn't make any of them less dangerous.

I don't believe for a second that he's as bland and wishy-washy behind closed doors as he comes off here anyway. This reads to me more like an attempt at the typical corporate press release non-language that gets put out to make a scandal go away, just coming from somebody who's not as good at it as an actual publicist would be.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

The banality of his formulaic non-answers is just exasperating. He can’t say “Yes, we love Trump & Nazis,” but he can’t forcefully act against them because they prop up his financial startup capital shell game.

I’m beginning to think that the sooner it just crashes & burns, the better. There’s no hope for real reform there under these circumstances.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:02 PM on January 17, 2019 [8 favorites]

Theories about Jack’s political leanings aside, I think that the problems being discussed here *are* genuinely hard problems. Some of them may be solvable by not having one giant site that tries to please Everyone; my Mastodon instance is definitely for queer lefty types and I’ve been quite happy to quietly defederate from troll-right instances as they show up, my instance is not *big* enough for anyone to be threatening me with suits over me “limiting their free speech” by denying the access to the server I and it’s users pay for. But I’m pretty sure there’s some exciting new failure modes to decentralized social networks, too.
posted by egypturnash at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2019 [10 favorites]

I read @jack's original Twitter thread, and he fundamentally does not understand seated meditation or Zen.
posted by JamesBay at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think one of the biggest risks to Twitter is some high profile company saying publicly "this is a hostile environment where we cannot ethically make our employees operate" and closing its accounts. Followed by a mass exodus, and subtle changes like newspapers not linking to reporter Twitter accounts and people not putting Twitter handles on conference slides and badges.

I also would not be surprised to learn companies are reticent to do this because Twitter is so linked to Trump in many people's minds.
posted by smelendez at 4:13 PM on January 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, he’s banal. You know who else was banal?

The Nazis. Hannah Arendt wrote a whole book on it.
posted by maxsparber at 4:13 PM on January 17, 2019 [26 favorites]

I no longer believe a good global-scale human- and/or algorithmically-moderated social network that preserves discoverability can be built.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 4:25 PM on January 17, 2019 [11 favorites]

Doesn't matter much whether you're an actual Nazi or just a Useful Idiot. And it doesn't say much about Jack when, in the most charitable possible light, he's been and continues to be a useful idiot to the Nazis, and more recently, the genocidal Myanmar regime.
posted by tclark at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

Between @Jack and whoever at YouTube thinks it’s cool to radicalize millions of young men into some flavor of violent misogyny and white supremacy, I’m starting to think we let Nazis get control of the current propaganda medium again, and I find that very concerning.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:56 PM on January 17, 2019 [15 favorites]

Meanwhile people think it's fine to keep their Facebook accounts because FB's algorithm made it so they don't see the racists. Sold out American democracy, meh.
posted by exogenous at 5:00 PM on January 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

You know how if we say certain types of things about certain people here, or we suggest that certain types of things happening to certain people might be a net good for humanity, even though they're nigh-universally considered immoral and are definitely illegal, how those comments are deleted because they're Bad for MetaFilter?

I agree with MetaFilter's policy about this.

But once in a while you feel something so strongly that you just have to type it up and look at it, even if you never post it.

So just imagine I wrote one of those types of comments in this comment box--the most awful, ugly, rage-fueled, base, hate-filled rant with terrible, vile wishes in it, and I really really wanted to post it, but I didn't because it would just get deleted and possibly get me banned--now you have a general sense of what I think about @Jack.

If I'd posted it on Twitter, nothing would happen to me, "officially," but I'd be trolled and probably doxxed or swatted and who knows what else.

And that's why MetaFilter is where I prefer to spend my time: you guys keep me from showing the worst parts of myself.
posted by tzikeh at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2019 [20 favorites]

What IS the rate of harassment / bullshit for lefties on Twitter who talk shit about Nazis? Is it like you tweet about a Nazi being a Nazi, and then it’s like one of those YouTube videos of people who accidentally burst spider eggsacs: poof COVERED IN A MILLION NAZIS.

Like what’s your expected value of harassment and dozing/stalking? How bad is it?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:28 PM on January 17, 2019

It depends on the person. I don't get it at all, but I only have a couple of hundred followers. I'm white, cis male, straight and not very aggressive, which probably helps me avoid the worst.
posted by Merus at 5:49 PM on January 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

is contemporary social media biased towards fascism?
posted by ovvl at 6:33 PM on January 17, 2019

He may be "concerned about the Jews," but he certainly wasn't concerned about the Rohingya enough to not go on vacation in Myanmar after his platform helped enable their genocide.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:41 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

This is word salad masquerading as deep thought.

Part-time CEO, and it shows.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:49 PM on January 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had to stop reading it. Dear god, please tell me he was on Ambien or something...
posted by Toddles at 7:10 PM on January 17, 2019

This is awful, and I agree that he's either (not so) secretly alt-right, or at least his dedication to agnostic veneration of free speech and "perspectives" make it as if he were. Two of his answers really stood out for me. The first is Feinberg pressing him to elaborate on his nebulous cure-all of "perspective",
I mean, that, I guess. But also, I know you talk a lot about trying to raise up different perspectives in the platform. How are you going to account for that?

Well, the biggest thing and I think we need to combat is filter bubbles and echo chambers. So, as an example, during Brexit, if you were to follow only Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and all these other folks, you would only see tweets about reasons to leave. If we enabled you to do something like following a hashtag, like, #voteleave, 90 percent would be reasons to leave, but 10 percent would be reasons to stay. In the current mechanics of the system, we don’t allow that reality. We don’t even allow different perspectives because you have to do the work to find the other accounts. So you could say, well, people could just go the hashtag. People don’t do that. It’s not easy for them, and they’re only going to do what’s easy. But we don’t make it easy. So, that is one simple thing that we could do to increase the amount and the variety perspective. Where, it might be that they see that, they follow the #voteleave tag, and they see the reasons to stay and that further emboldens them into leaving. Or it might be the case that they say, wait a minute, why are we doing this? We don’t know. But we haven’t even given people a chance to decide and have that experience.
This is an insane solution, and seems to indicate that he neither understands the problem at hand, nor even the platform that he built. Charitably it's a centrist fantasy that all truth is found in the center of a debate. If people are "gaming" the system now (that is, using it as intended and within scope) by flooding trending topics, just think of how they'll use a system that pushes opposing perspectives into a conversation. Propaganda is inherently about asymmetric power. Huge organizations will be able to push their ideas into conversations (and probably even unrelated or marginally political conversations) and dominate the discussion even more than they currently do. If past experiences are any indication then Twitter's response to this will be to handwave at the algorithm, and only address the most embarassing concerns.

Secondly is the closing remark,
That’s disappointing. And last, I’m just wondering, what use of your platform has horrified you the most, or that you didn’t expect the most?

I mean that we weren’t expecting any of the abuse and harassment, and just the ways that people have weaponized the platform. So, all that is horrible. And you know, we feel bad about that and we feel responsible about it. So that’s that’s what we intend to fix.
How in the absolute fuck do you create an online social platform in the mid-2000s and act surprised by the fact that people use it to abuse and harass others? I can't imagine that Jack was new to online communities when he started making Twitter. It's also been a problem of Twitter since... 2006. The "fix" for this problem seems to constantly be on the horizon, and something that's deeply concerning.

It's a fucking tragedy that such a meager mind and soul managed to shape the media discourse of the 21st century. Same goes for Zuckerberg.
posted by codacorolla at 7:58 PM on January 17, 2019 [12 favorites]

If you have a sufficient following (eg like 400 followers) and don't block anyone, you can expect your account to be suspended for saying "Nazis should fuck off and die" or "fuck terfs"

i've been suspended twice for saying that punching terfs makes you the righteous among nations and that punching terfs is the best way to celebrate pride month, but no actual terfs have confronted me because they're all disgusting pathetic cowards. however the nazis have not yet found me.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:34 PM on January 17, 2019 [10 favorites]

In my brief attempt at twittering I was suspended for calling Deepak Chopra a huckster, a hack, and a shyster. I think an unwritten rule also is that you can't say bad things(even if true) about wealthy celebrities unless they're known for espousing progressive viewpoints.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

How true is it that Twitter effectively bans nazi imagery in Germany? Because I'd really like Jack to answer why he can't just do that for everyone.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:38 PM on January 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

How true is it that Twitter effectively bans nazi imagery in Germany? Because I'd really like Jack to answer why he can't just do that for everyone.

Fairly true, although it's at the account-level and not at the post-level. You can change your location in your profile to Germany and you will be unable to view a lot of neo-nazi accounts. The reason he doesn't just do that for everyone is that he chooses not to.
posted by Jairus at 9:50 PM on January 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

What’s amazing is that he seems like a dumbass, so you might expect him to have regular dumbass views. Like, reflexively thinking immigration is bad because that’s what newspapers say all the time and he’s never thought deeply about that issue, or indeed any other? Sure, par for the course for 2019. Shame he controls a huge global platform, but it’s not as though we live in a meritocracy or anything.

But this guy has the regular dumbass views of a Bavarian industrialist from 1935! He’s not a wellspring of pure, conscious evil, like Bannon or Miller. (He just mumbled his way through an interview with someone who he had previously unfollowed because they told him to close his business down every week - we’re not talking Machiavelli here.) Where the fuck did he pick up the reflexive, poorly thought-through opinions of a fucking brownshirt??

I mean, it’s a rhetorical question, obviously. Fuck Silicon Valley techbro culture. That shit is disastrous along so many axes and is a huge, pus-filled abcess standing in the way of any meaningful progress to a better future.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:55 PM on January 17, 2019 [10 favorites]

What an evil asshole. The trumpian vapidity is staggering, but it's got to be at least half an act which takes it to a scary level. If I called Dorsey what he really is, I'd have to put together such a long list of derogatory terms it probably would get deleted.
posted by blue shadows at 11:20 PM on January 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I tried to read this three separate times but some bad ads served redirect my browser to some bullshit malware/spam site every time. That's got to be some kind of omen, right?
posted by axiom at 12:16 AM on January 18, 2019

The other day, I was chased out of a pool area because I was wearing the wrong shoes. I just wanted to check the place out, but the attendant made me leave. I wanted to stay, she said “No,” and I left.

Everyone — everyone — reading this has had a similar experience with some kind of external authority.

But Dorsey is surrounded by supplicants and it’s warped the fabric of his soul. He’s not a god, but you could say he’s no longer human because he doesn’t share the same set of human constraints as most people. This is true of nearly all immensely wealthy people.

When do you think was the last time anyone told him “No” and made it stick? It’s probably been decades.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:53 AM on January 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Social media was a mistake.
posted by lkc at 4:45 AM on January 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

In addition to being a person who's clearly either on the side of the far right, or at least so terrified of them that he doesn't want to cross them, I think the biggest problem for Dorsey is that he is utterly and completely without a clue on any path forward, not just WRT the right wing problem, but in general for Twitter.

Basically by accident, Twitter struck gold when it came to popularity. It wasn't because of anything Dorsey or any of the other Twitter owners, founders, and executives did, they just lucked out. So now they've got this behemoth on their hands, just expanding the software and hardware fast enough to keep up with the influx of users was a nightmare.

They're suddenly huge, and they really have no clue what they did right, so their natural inclination is going to be to change absolutely nothing. After all, if you don't know what caused your success, then changing anything might end that success.

Then it gets worse, because they're surviving by burning VC money because, there's no real way to monetize Twitter and make it profitable. They've got a fuckton of users, but they have no idea how to turn those users into money.

They're back to the "do anything and the magic might go away" problem. Only worse, because anyone with half a brain in the computer industry knows that almost every time companies try to monetize a product, no matter how, it tends to piss off users and cause them to leave.

So he's a techbro, smart but white, cis, het, male, and basically either unaware of or totally indifferent to the problems people who don't match his demographics experience. He's never been harassed so clearly harassment isn't a problem, and anyway freeze peach right? He's paralyzed with fear that changing anything at all will make the magic go away. He's running a loss and knows damn well that sooner or later the VC funding will dry up and then it'll be closed or sold off anyway. And now all these damnable SJW types are pestering him because some of the magic is coming from the fact that the Klan, and Russian spies riling up the Klan, are a significant part of his userbase. Oh, and now his stock price is falling, which means the VC money is going to be ending sooner rather than later.


I'm not surprised that Dorsey has no clue, about anything, because he's achieved success by accident and he's terrified that people will figure out that the magic isn't him, or any of his buddies, but sheer chance. So he retreats into platitudes, generalities, and tries to be everything to everyone.

When he's interviewed about the problems Twitter is causing he'll spew platitudes he thinks will cause this irritating leftist person to stop bothering him so he can go back to his corner, huddle under a blanket, and rock back and forth in general existential terror and fear that he'll be found out.

Impostor syndrome plagues computer people in general, and if he hasn't got a much bigger case of impostor syndrome going than the average tech I'd be amazed. Because, in his case, it's real. What made Twitter big wasn't the skills of him or any of his friends, it was just pure random chance. And he knows it.

Not that this excuses him, but I think it's a pretty good explanation for why he's the way he his.
posted by sotonohito at 5:49 AM on January 18, 2019 [14 favorites]

I'll also add that among techs there's often a tendency to get something going by guess, hope, prayer, and duct tape, and then step back and say "for fuck's sake nobody breathe on this or it'll fall over!"

Getting something working at all is a miracle and lucky break. Once it's going there's a strong emotional urge to leave it alone for fear that you'll break it and never get it working again. And I'm just talking about simple stuff like making an iffy WiFi card work here, never mind the bigger stuff like your bank's back end.

Virtually every bit of critical computer infrastructure is built on hope and prayer by people who are convinced that they don't really know what they're doing and fearful that someone will find out their secret and expose them. I mean all of it. The internet itself. Your banking. Credit card processing. None of it is robust, well planned, or built by people confident that it'll work.

It's all a messy kludge that was hacked together under budget and past deadline by people trying to substitute caffeine for sleep.

Which all feeds into the Twitter reluctance to do anything, and interacts very badly indeed when the techbro culture of the white guys who started it and run it are in denial that there's even a problem in the first place.

"Oh come on, now they want us to touch this huge mess that might topple over by it's own weight and start mucking around with stuff just because their precious little feelings are hurt? Fuck that and fuck them, just say something to make them STFU before they get the media pissed at us."

Again, not that this justifies or excuses the absolute refusal of Twitter (and Facebook, and reddit, and and and) to even look seriously at the problem of right wing insanity and harassment. But it helps explain it.
posted by sotonohito at 6:02 AM on January 18, 2019 [12 favorites]

Twitter is a public company now, so they’re probably no longer really dependent on VCs.

Being public is almost worse, though, if you want to make big changes. With private investors, you could potentially convince that small group of people to stick with you through an unprofitable period. “We’re going to take a hit as we fix these problems, but we’ll bounce back and it will be fine.” Being publicly traded, however, risks the stock crashing if you sneeze wrong...
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 9:18 AM on January 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm not surprised that Dorsey has no clue, about anything, because he's achieved success by accident and he's terrified that people will figure out that the magic isn't him, or any of his buddies, but sheer chance.

Yes, this exactly. It's also true of Facebook / Zuckerberg.

I have this feeling that both of them are just smart enough to have occasional moments, maybe late at night, where they realize they have no goddamn idea what they're doing. I mean, golden-retriever-at-a-computer levels of "how did I get here?" and "how does this work?"

Both of their businesses arose through the market equivalent of monkeys hammering on typewriters. They were in the right place, at the right time, and produced a marginally-useful product that met a need. Not because they correctly divined anything, or are especially brilliant, but just because they happened to randomly produce that thing.

Twitter was mainly a way to get around international SMS charges, for fucks's sake, not some giant platform for global political conversation. It was never meant to be that. It turned into that, but not because Dorsey is some sort of genius. It was just there and people started using it for that.

And Facebook—Facebook started as a crude way for Zuck to rate the fuckability of his college classmates; basically a private-label "HotOrNot.com". I'll give him some credit for the rather clever rollout (starting from the Ivies as a beachhead, working out from there), if indeed that was actually even his idea, but there was never anything particularly unique about the site other than that. Network effects did the rest, and their feature development could kindly be described as "stochastic", throwing shit against the wall and seeing what the reaction was.

I guarantee you neither of these guys thought they would be where they are right now, and if a butterfly had happened to fart in a different direction in the early 2000s, they wouldn't. Their products would have faded into obscurity like hundreds or thousands of other ones did, and they'd both be off doing perfectly typical WASPy middle-management jobs somewhere, for which they'd both probably be perfectly well-equipped, based on their background and education, and their politics wouldn't be that surprising in that context. That's why they're so damn bad at stuff that you'd expect a CEO of a huge global corporation to be good at, or at least not bad at, like—in Dorsey's case—giving an interview without herp-derping and basically admitting he's a fucking Nazi sympathizer. (Even if he is a Nazi sympathizer, one would expect an F1000 CEO to know you don't say stuff that suggests to people that you are. That's, like, CEOing 101.)

IMO the takeaway lesson from this decade—the decade of Twitter, Facebook, and Trump—may well be that "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" was actually awfully, terribly wrong. It turns out that if you some random schmuck and suddenly elevate him to astronomical levels of power, the result isn't all that great. Nothing in these guys' backgrounds prepared them to actually wield that sort of power with any sort of responsibility, and it shows.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:26 AM on January 18, 2019 [12 favorites]

Kadin2048: Remember: Twitter was originally Odeo, a podcast directory startup that shut down once Apple launched their own podcast directory. Had Apple not made a direct investment in podcasting, we would never have had Twitter. If you had to travel back in time and change something, would you rather lose Serial or lose Twitter?
posted by SansPoint at 9:40 AM on January 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

This interview is basically consistent with Seth Rogen's analysis from last year:
I’ve been DMing with @jack about his bizarre need to verify white supremacists on his platform for the last 8 months or so, and after all the exchanges, I’ve reached a conclusion: the dude simply does not seem to give a fuck.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:14 AM on January 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

My suspicion is that @Jack is alt-right.

I don't know if it counts as alt-right or what technically - all these guys kinda hate each other of course when you look up close - but I bet he totally is the kind of guy who thinks Quillette is a very thoughtful publication.
posted by atoxyl at 10:20 AM on January 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is the guy who asked Azealia Banks to make a talisman to protect him from ISIS right? It’s possible he can be stupid AND a Nazi.
posted by like_neon at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Mastodon has considerably fewer Nazi's than Twitter. But it also probably doesn't have your friends. And it relies a bit too much on the kindness of strangers.
posted by tommasz at 11:48 AM on January 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Lose Serial or lose Twitter"? Lose Twitter.

Apple and iTunes gave podcasting enough of a base to build 'something' on... and without Twitter we would have all stayed on Jaiku - which for a time was neck and neck with Twitter but with better uptime. For some reason, the US-based coverage of SXSW that year favoured the US company over the Finnish company...
posted by ewan at 3:18 PM on January 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Twitter doesn't seem to have the first clue about how to be twitter anyway.

Every damn week there is new push to change timeline into it's algorithmic garbage and there's always the same chorus of pretty much 100% condemnation.
No one ever wanted moments or top tweets or pushing newsy eventy stuff on top of your feed or to see tweets other people liked instead of retweeted or to get notifications about a tweet their algorithm reckoned you might like.
99% of their engineering effort for the past 5 years has been completely worthless.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

So there is a lot of talk here about the start of Twitter and I think a lot of things are being missed.

As mentioned above, Odeo was a company that got crushed by Apple, but was a company that still had the wherewithal to try something new. Odeo happened to have a bunch of open source technologists --including multiple anarchist leaning folks-- who were really trying to build a radical new communication platform. It wasn't till later that the management money types radically shifted from the open nature of the twitter platform and consequently all the open source/free software geeks and anarchists left or were pushed out. I think this is very different that what's been presented here by some, that the Nazi in charge just wanted to let things be as they were at the start of the Twitter. This was a very calculated shift to the right mid stream.

For a great first person account of this time, check out this talk by Even Henshaw-Plath. The relevant part of Twitter history starts at about 2:25 to about 17:13, but the whole talk is really interesting.

The other thing I think is missed is even though there were some really talented and well intended folks involved in the initial creation of Twitter, they were not starting from scratch. There were two platforms that existed before Twitter that really gave it invaluable research on how people were going to start using mobile communications.

The first was Upoc, a company that was founded in 1999 and launched in 2000, folded in 2011. Upoc was a mobile community platform, and was really centered around SMS. The idea of being able to broadcast digital messages to more than just the people sitting at keyboards was still a really new thing in 1999. You couldn't even send a text message to somebody's phone if you were on ATT and they were on Sprint.

Upoc, (originally it stood for Universal Point of Contact, but that was silently dropped) was built so that people could send text and voice (and later MMS image) messages from whatever device (pre-smart phone, pager, computer, or land line) they were on and the recipient(s) would receive the message on whatever device they were on.

Upoc was really the first cross carrier group text messaging app in the U.S. You could also send a voice mail via an IVR, you could even send a text message by calling from a pay phone. And way before smart phones, you could login via WAP on your dumb phone and read/send messages and manage your groups.

It was slick, but being the first in the U.S. market, it didn't see the meteoric growth that Twitter did 6 years later, partly because the idea was so new for people and Upoc didn't quite nail the "Follow" aspect of Twitter that really made it take off. Ironically, the closest it got to that was really the source of its downfall. It started to get celebrities to offer paid content, i.e. paying some loot would get you voice messages from Brittany Spears. Once the pay element came into it, user growth really slowed. Or rather, more internal development time was spent on revenue making things rather than innovation and community management and consequently Twitter took over very rapidly.

It was however the start though of public figures falling in love with social media. Dave Navarro for one just loved to leave rambling 1 hour voice messages to his followers. Luckily no one had to pay for those as he gave them willingly and often.

The second project that really influenced twitter was TXTMob. TXTMob was started by a radical technologist at MIT, Tad Hirsch. It was mainly started as a way for people to communicate with each other during the protests of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. People could sign up for announcements for the major events or for the various working/affinity groups one was a part of.

It was TXTMob that really inspired the radical folks in early twitter. They loved that it could help people organize a better world. They were really hoping Twitter would support those goals. But the money guys won in the end, shut down innovation, and then started happily providing space for Nazis.

Sorry if that went on a little too long, i just think its history that is really being overlooked.
posted by lips at 3:27 PM on January 18, 2019 [19 favorites]

The Hannah Arendt reference above is spot on. Dorsey is definitely an idiot, and very likely a bigot. I'd like to know if Feinberg believed him when he suddenly remembered why he'd blocked her.
posted by harriet vane at 4:41 AM on January 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

So, Jack, in all his wisdom, decided to follow up Feinberg's defenestration with interviews with Rolling Stone and Btill Simmons, where he responded to questions about dealing with Twitter's Nazi infestation with the following:
A lot of the calls for “remove the Nazis” are also due to the fact our enforcement operates on reporting. A lot of people don’t report. They see things, but it’s easier to tweet out “get rid of the Nazis” than to report it. We need to be more proactive, but a lot of it has to do with the friction of everything relying on it being reported in the first place. Two years ago, you could only report it if you were the direct recipient of either a reply or a threat, or some abusive behavior. Whereas today, you can be a bystander and report it.
In response, Twitter's stock price fell 4%.

Jack needs to go. Now.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:38 PM on January 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Jesus Christ. If your reporting system doesn't purge the nazis then your reporting system is broken. How about being proactive and searching for nazis and their ilk?
posted by runcibleshaw at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2019

The Germany/Nazi-regalia blocking proves he's a liar too. He could shutdown every single one of those accounts as a start if he actually cared about Nazis.
posted by PMdixon at 9:37 PM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Right, nobody asks him why we can't have what France and Germany have. OR HEY, whether people can just opt-in to it. I mean seriously.
posted by rhizome at 9:53 PM on January 23, 2019

After all these interviews that have crashed and burned, you have to ask - what was the point? All Jack did was harm his company's price, and make himself look more like an ass than he already has.

The story of him and Zuckerberg and the goat seems like a metaphor for something:
He made goat for me for dinner. He killed the goat . . . He kills it with a laser gun and then the knife. Then they send it to the butcher . . . Evidently, in Palo Alto, there’s a rule or regulation that you can have six livestock on any lot of land, so he had six goats at the time. I go, “We’re eating the goat you killed?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Have you eaten goat before?” He’s like, “Yeah, I love it.” I’m like, “What else are we having?” “Salad.” I said, “Where is the goat?” “It’s in the oven.” Then we waited for about 30 minutes. He’s like, “I think it’s done now.” We go in the dining room. He puts the goat down. It was cold. That was memorable. I don’t know if it went back in the oven. I just ate my salad.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:33 AM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

posted by homunculus at 6:47 PM on February 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

And did I not say, in this very thread, that @Jack was probably alt-right? The reason he doesn't ban racism on his platform is because he is a racist and a friend of racists. He actively promotes racism because he wants racism to triumph. He's not some capitalist husk, doing it for the clicks; he is a bad person and a fascist and we should ask ourselves why so many, many of these rich, rich men are not just capitalists but racists and fascists.
posted by Frowner at 7:33 PM on February 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Dorsey did another interview, this time with Kara Swisher.

It did not go well.

Who in Twitter PR is letting him do these?
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:30 AM on February 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

So I'm reading that "interview" and one of his closing comments really stands out to me - that they weren't focused on their "one core strength", which Jack identifies as conversation.

From where I sit, Twitter's strength has never been conversation; the platform is not designed for it at all, which this interview shows off in spades. The various interviews further show it's not a strength for Jack either - he can't answer questions directly, he can't give concrete answers, etc.

So part of the problem would appear to be that they've misidentified what they are good at. Other parts of the problem are the racist, sexist, tech-bro culture.
posted by nubs at 10:32 AM on February 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

That's a good point, Conway's Law isn't it? Sprinkle a little "culture comes from the top" and that is a decent starting point for a nutshell illustration of the Twitter milieu both online and IRL.

I would love to see the question posed that way, "How can you even say Twitter's strength is anything specific when it's defined so vaguely?"
posted by rhizome at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2019

I mean I think he’s almost certainly alt-right, but he’s definitely an idiot
posted by schadenfrau at 10:54 AM on February 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

"If you don't like it, leave" is something I'm used to hearing right wingers say to people who are critical of America, but II guess it scales down.

I don't want to leave. I want it to be better.
posted by maxsparber at 7:28 AM on February 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

It comes from one of the foundational myths of the internet and tech culture - that bad actors will be stopped easily, because people can easily leave in response. But the reality is that the world doesn't work like that, and that it can be very hard to leave because of a number of factors.

Yet it persists, because it's attractive - you don't have to do the hard work of community management and dealing with toxic members, because all you have to do is leave.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:40 AM on February 14, 2019

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