Twitter wants to make its content moderation more transparent and its appeals process more robust, and to work some more on an open source initiative called Blue Sky that could relieve pressure on the company as a centralized curator of content.
So says CEO Jack Dorsey, speaking at a Goldman Sachs virtual investor conference, staking out Twitter’s view of the growing cry to repeal or restrict Section 230 – a law that gives Internet companies legal immunity from content posted on their platforms and wide latitude in moderation. The Feds and Congress have also slapped two of Twitter’s giant rivals, Facebook and Google, with antitrust suits and are looking to rewrite and tighten antitrust law.
“Content moderation is a practice that is not new to the Internet,” Dorsey said. “What’s different is how centralized it is right now and that puts a lot of burden on us as a company, as a team, and definitely goes to outcomes that may not look great to every single person involved.” The right and left have both had Twitter in the crosshairs, the former calling for more aggressive steps in policing misinformation, the latter outraged at a permanent ban of former President Donald Trump or the temporary suspension of the New York Post’s account last year.
Dorsey reiterated comments he made Tuesday on a conference call following strong earnings regarding losing Donald Trump and his 88 million followers – that Twitter is bigger than any one account or one issue. Twitter reassured investors that it expects average daily users to be up 20% in the current first quarter and revenue to grow despite kicking the former POTUS off on Jan. 8 for inciting violence. Twitter shares have been buoyant since earnings, closing up 13.2% today.
Dorsey noted that he testified before Congress twice last year, alongside the CEOs of Facebook and Google. Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has called openly for more federal regulation over what it can and can’t do. Dorsey is wary, especially about anything that touches Section 230.
“If there are changes to it, it will impact all of the Internet, not just social media” – from restaurant reviews and blogs to message boards and chat rooms, he warned. And he said Twitter worries that “some proposals being made by governments would further entrench some of the biggest players, and that really takes away from any startup being able to [launch]… We need more ideas and experimentation.”
So Twitter might “open up to outside developers — have an app marketplace for algorithm developers. That addresses the problem that we see. We can earn trust, because it’s more visible and neatly address some of the concerns around regulation, especially Section 230.”
Algorithms rank the most relevant tweets for users and have a big impact on how they experience the service. With an open app marketplace, Twitter users could experiment and try different algorithms.
As Twitter turns 15 next month, Dorsey said, it’s become more friendly to advertisers after a major upgrade of its server. It’s helping users better navigate the endless wilds of tweets to find specific topics of interests, it’s getting closer to e-commerce capabilities, and is testing a subscription service.
Twitter was founded on March 21, 2006.
“The true power of Twitter is not the biggest topic of the day, but niche topics. We’re trying to show off the longer tail of Twitter because that’s where the magic really is,” he said.