The Daily - Jack Dorsey on Twitter's Mistakes

It’s been four years since the 2016 election laid bare the powerful role that social media companies have come to play in shaping political discourse and beliefs in America.Since then, there have been growing calls to address the spread of polarization and misinformation promoted on such platforms.While Facebook has been slower to acknowledge a need for change, Twitter has embraced the challenge, acknowledging that the company made mistakes in the past. But with three months to go until the 2020

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New York Times Michael Barbaro, this is the daily.

It's been 4 years since the 2016 election demonstrated the powerful role that social media companies have come to play in shaping political discourse and beliefs in America.

Since then there have been growing calls to address the spread of polarization and misinformation from Buddha. On these platforms won't Facebook has been slower to acknowledge. The Need For Change Twitter has embraced and said that they made mistakes, but with three months to go until the 2020 election. These changes have been incremental. Well Twitter itself is more popular than ever.

Today a conversation with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about whether those changes will be enough.

It's Friday, August 7th.

Hey there. Hey, hey jackass Michael. How are you? Child has me as a child. How old maybe three or four and what should we deduce from? The fact that your icon is a child. Well, it's it's me. It's it's not just a child the reminder Jack I'm going to start with an intentionally provocative question, which is do you believe that you are one of the most powerful people on Earth right now?

No, no, no.

12 because if it's a reference to the power Twitter has and I think that power is awesomely in the hands of the people that use it every single day in and that's that's been the thing that is most special about the service is everything that has made Twitter powerful has come from the people using it the people really push the direction of where the service goes and what it is and what it wants to be in. Our job is a company my job as an individual. The company is to is to be a checkpoint on that. Anyways, what you're you're grappling with the way in which the people and then away the unchecked power of the people has transformed Twitter and is not a lot of what we're seeing from you now an effort to kind of moderate to intervene in some way to control that power.

I don't think it's on check power first. I think the people are constantly checking themselves. And that's what you see in public conversation in the first place what we're dealing with though is people gaming systems people taking unfair advantage of systems people setting up accounts in order to manipulate conversation. And that's where you know, we really need to focus. Our energy is is that audience unfairly earned is a captured in some way that isn't consistent with reality which would be a default on our system are we also dealing with people checking nachos themselves but each other and I didn't intend it to go here so quickly, but this idea of cancel culture that is so present in our society right now. Doesn't that have to do with something that

Don't have to do with gaming systems were taking unfair advantage of them. But rather would the incentive structure of Twitter itself spot-on with incentives. You know, I think if if we're to do all this over again and Rewind The discipline, you said we were lacking in the company in the early days that I wish we would have understood and then hired for the game theorists to just really understand the ramifications of tiny decisions that we make such as what happens with retweet vs. Retweet with comment and what happens when you put account next to the like button or is that mean so damn serious to behavioral Economist to to help us understand incentives and then social scientist does a discipline said that we lacked the I think of somebody

Would have been important helping us think about not just building a products but building something that people use socially and in the ramifications of that meaning if that people were using this for more and more conversation for more more speech. This is less about building a product and more about how people enter relate with one another how people converse with one another but I think you know, three of these things tend to be pendulum swings and then why we do see a lot of what you're labeling is cancel culture today. I do think it's important that we continue to allow the space for people to express their past and their history in context on because I think context matters so much because if we can express our we can learn from it and then we can really progressing for improve as a culture or as individuals either.

Local place for contact it really depends on what part of Twitter you look at 80% of Twitter's outside. The United States 80% of Twitter doesn't really concern itself with what you're bringing up right now in politics news Twitter, certainly, there's different ways of using at the you know, some of Orchard are great because I hope our two account summer not because it does not allow for an evolution of an individual or institution or learning but there are multiple Twitter is happening in parallel all the time and we in the US and especially in the media tend to focus on one small like sliver of it that does have real impact in the world, but, you know from a company and service perfector bread to pay attention to something so much larger.

We also have a leader in the United States engages in that small sliver in a very big way starting to dabble in in in much greater essential elements of Twitter from the start may contain flies have contained flood or turned out to be flaws, but I'd like to go back with you is a very beginning to understand how it is that that we got here and I want to understand what you thought you were making and what you actually have created. So, what did you imagine Twitter was going to be when you create it? And why did you create it? What was it supposed to do?

Well, I think Twitter is unique and Toledo Edison. It wasn't something we really invented. It was something we discovered and we kept following the thread on it and in saying that we didn't really have any specific intent around what it should be or what it shouldn't be. We saw some opportunity and Technology based on all of our backgrounds and experiences and we are also kind of thrust into a world that you know, I'm a country that there was just getting access to SMS and we felt it to use it and immediately we felt it was incredible and said that the moment

That we felt there was something there at least for us was you know, we all went to our various homes or dinners or yoga sessions or whatever. It was away from the office when it finally started working after 2 weeks and we all were updating each other about what we're doing and even though we weren't physically present with each other anymore. We felt together and it was still such an amazing feeling knowing that I would be saying an update and potentially you would buzz, you know, some of my friends pockets and they would take it out and they would understand in that moment immediately what I was going through what I was thinking was very cool. It was instantaneous and I was brought into that moment. The moment is happening about the fact that the reach of this would be unconstrained exactly that the rich was unconstrained. It wasn't me choosing to send an update to these seven people. It was me.

Writing on the wall and people following updates from that wall. And the number of people following those updates could be infinite. There's a change in the model so that it was a broadcast and anyone could could TuneIn effectively versus me selecting folks to receive a message, huge.

Well, no, I I want in this release about it. I would say that it felt amazing and you felt electric and it felt so, you know very powerful to us, but what really showed us Twitter were the people and how they used to it. And how are they used to completely differently than how we used it. So I want to talk when I see is the beginning of the transformation of Twitter and the active tweeting and I see the start of that.

Really as being the Arab Spring and young people in the Middle East using this new platform to call for change to document the cause for change to document government's response to those calls and ultimately to bring the change right and really alter the course of history because governments during this. Literally fell and Rose and we see similar usage in the United States with black lives matter and it felt like that development in the usage of Twitter was a celebrated by progressives and it felt kind of noble but this also represents in my recollection the beginning of Twitter as a reactive agent in politics and that brought a lot of changes to the platform including hyperpolarization America's political discourse starts to play out on Twitter and it gets pretty nasty pretty quickly. That is harassment. There's name-calling there's threats. There's the racism and the idea that everybody who disagrees with me or just pleased with you.

They're just an evil. Idiot that becomes a pretty powerful sentiment on Twitter and it becomes a kind of quickly. They're so will you agree with that basic depiction of the transformation?

Well, I think it's ignoring.

Everything that happens on the internet and Carlos from abuse and harassment did not start after this polarization or the political dialogue coming on Twitter. It's been on the internet forever and certainly folks on the early days of Twitter experiencing abuse hate harassment. It just wasn't acknowledged. Unfortunately By Us in early days enough or buy another general population General Media. So the fact that there wasn't a knowledge man or even observation or stories about it doesn't mean that wasn't happening it was and it just wasn't being made visible enough and acknowledged enough or at least one direction online as opposed to a result of the incentives and the structures of Twitter. It certainly has always been part of the structure of the internet and some of what

It incentivizes as well force is not and it's not to say that we didn't incentivize different ways or amplifying the behaviors that already existed but digital communication has has seen the sort of attack and then we sort of trends when it comes to incentives. What were they as far as you could tell on Twitter and how do they play a role in both the popularity and eventually that the trouble that were talking about here on the platform?

well, I think

choices around

showing how many people follow you?

And I thought number was folded than big in your profile certainly incentivised.

Me to make that number go up, right or anyone like that's the number of that for whatever reason is product thinks is important that inherently incentivizes people to grow that number as quickly as possible decisions. We made around having a favorite button on a tweet and then shifting that to a like button and not button having a number associated with it. So people wanting or constructing tweets went viral and spread as quickly as possible through retweet numbers the bigger those numbers supposed to be better. It is in what was the problem with that specifically it what happens when you incentivize likes and retweets.

Well, I you know, as you know, it can create behaviors that people are writing headlines for people to click so that eventually people see the ads behind that car. And does that really in all the right intention vs. Informing people about what's happening and you know, we certainly saw a lot of behaviors where people were constructing tweets just to get this much Sprite as possible. And then we saw even more sophisticated attacks around that where people find out ways to game the system in order to get more visibility and to get their message higher than someone else. So yeah, I mean, I think that spread without necessarily substance is in a sense of that can be can be dangerous.

This is coming back to this idea of nuance and whether that's possible or now. I guess we'll talk about whether it's rewarded on Twitter. Yeah, I mean

you wanted one of the things that we we are experimenting with a small little feature where if you retweet an article that you haven't actually even opened to look at to read we will give you a notification that says hey you haven't actually looked at this. Are you sure you want to spread it because that is a vector for information to to spread them might be misleading and and people to unknowingly participate in spreading misleading information. I think they're their people within 10 and then there's a lot of people who are just kind of seeing things and seeing a headline and I are seeing a particular tweet and saying, oh my God and then spreading it without a tendonitis on us to help why not just Implement that that's a pretty interesting idea. I'm trying to imagine what the downside of that would be of making sure people have actually so you're actually

What it is, you're you're pointing to some of our biggest issues in the dawn of the company. Why not just lost something instead of think deeply about it and then see what the ramifications are and they're literally positive so we can imagine but there's probably some negatives as well. And you know, if if everyone has access to this and everyone is using it, how does that change the discourse and maybe it's entirely positive but maybe it's not maybe there's some underlying hidden assumptions that were making the we need to verify or things that we're not seeing new vectors of attack in factors of abuse. So if you'd stepping back in like thinking deeply about every single small action that were taking and having a hypothesis like what we have with his particular feature and then testing it and seeing how it plays out on the small-scale and then as we gain confidence around it,

Just want you to everyone.

You're trying to learn the lessons of Twitter today, even as you think about changing the consequences of that one thing. I want our company to be incredible at the one skill. I want us to build our capacity to learn. It's a cycle of observe learn and prove that if we can be incredible at that cycle. I'm confident we'll do the right things. No matter what challenges we're faced me for you if we become too rigid in coming up with an idea like we just discussed and saying let's just launched it and hope for the best. We're going to become more irrelevant or dangerous and we just can't afford them.

Would you agree this might seem harsh that you have not been incredible about that and maybe not even especially good at it about learning.

About pervasive observing learning changing and I would agree that we we haven't been awesome, but I think we're getting better and better every single day. And I think that is on display publicly, especially in this passage around everything that we've learned and how we evolved our policies and about their actions and enforcement and I would say that the transparency the company has with the world right now is unique and something I'm very very proud of and goes much farther than the most.

So let's talk about algorithms for a moment and how you're thinking about those what about the intensional surfacing by Twitter of particular types of message messages that tend to be hot emotional to draw lots of eyeballs controversial. Should that have worked differently.

Will sandin point so they deserve her thumbs hurt or Counseling of all things. So it is it's not a a past tense where we can't change things but a lot of the algorithms or are built on how people engage with the content and the simplest form, you know are people retweeting the street are people replying to it are people liking it and if you stop there then you get to a result where you know, some of the most salacious or controversial tweets will naturally raise the top because those are the things that people are naturally quick on our chair without thinking about it or reply to so there has to be some balance seeing effects to that. It can't just be up there. We'd signal has to take an other signals. I think the most important thing.

And all the decisions around those were constructed originally, but I'm sure it was because you have to start somewhere and then you have to evolve based on what you learned. I think at this point to a few issues around our problems stud. We as a company and also and Industry need to dissolve for they are way too much of a black box. They are not written in such a way that they express what criteria they're using to make decisions or even can express how they made Checker decision. And that's important only when you consider a ranking over them and what you see vs. What you don't see so we need to open up and be transparent around Tower algorithms work and how they're used and maybe even enable people to choose their own of rhythms to bring the content work to create their own over them to rankine to be that open. I think would be pretty incredible so that we can all come to better sleep.

Because it affects the siding and in such water toys.

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Yeah, can you give us a vision for Twitter for the for the future? Where can you describe how its incentives and algorithm in this Vision work? I mean what they reward and what that verse of what are actually looks like.

Well, what I believe we're building is a conversation layer of the internet, I believe so fundamentally in the promises of the internet what it what it enables in our world and what I think Twitter represents is the conversation layer outside and the public conversation layer in particular and I think one of the things I get really excited about as I look at the trends of Technology are number one the trends of translation technology and real-time translation, and I think we're we're moving from a world where a lot of people had to normalize around the top three languages in order to communicate with each other such as English and Spanish and Mandarin and given what we're able to now build with translation Technologies.

We're actually able to realize a future where when I come to a service like Twitter. I can express myself in my own dialect. And anyone in the world can understand it in real time. If you want to be super clear, but has to give it to me in a way that I think I understand if I'm saying to you right now for me and for many people Twitter feels like a place where people go to Sharon to re-share and to comment on emotional and attention-grabbing and often divisive messages. How do I describe that an experienced that in three years and five years? What's fundamentally different about

Well, or maybe it's not again. I think that the reason I talked about translation is because you have more voices and you have more people participating and I think that is important. We don't have enough people participating in the sand in a way that they're comfortable with the whole world of more people. That's a question that we allow me to mean I'm not sure but as we have more representation around the world then it's just into another issue in in the challenge is how do you focus on relevance and what is relevant to me? And what's not relevant to me? And that's where the algorithms come in and relevance can't just be did I write something that is a Centrist for like written in a way that is meant to spread but is it actually viable and relevant to?

A certain population or a certain aspect of the population and there are going to be certain conversations that span communities and span Nations and span cultures, but the majority of them are not the majority of them are going to be more localized. So I think you know and I don't know what the time frame is, but you'll see a Twitter that has you know, this does blurring of a very localized conversation whether that locality be cultural or geography-based or topical base experience of Facebook and say me and Mara me there places where social media has been expanded and people have deployed those social media services in pretty horrible ways and ways have been genocide all so isn't it possible that we were talking like you're just spreads across the world because if he if the fundamentals don't change about

What is shared Wyatt shared what are eyeballs are drawn to what the kind of fundamental kind of incentives of this system are in a place like Twitter and aren't we just about to exported to other places? Is it more attention on those problems helpful? There isn't more acknowledgement on those issues unfolding in real time in the public important so that we can technology so that more people can try to help solve them some people who may not have had access because they don't understand it in the past Now understand it and can jump in a even if they're not particularly in the location. I guess. It depends on Twitter or an amplifier.

or creator of divisiveness and polarization

I just kind of chicken and egg thing all over again. I like you like any tool can be both with all these tools. Are we build all Technologies? We we start using them in one way and we discover all these problems and then we address of the sun. We continue that is iteration. It's not unique to this time. It's because back throughout our history as as a civilization can't pick any tool and I wasn't used in some way in both a positive and a negative and the same is true for the tools of the internet, but it's that it's not both right. How do you ensure before you grow again? Globally that you've solved kind of the root problem. And what does that algorithm look like? I think that's just the wrong way to think about it. Just one solution.

What UC has even if it has one solution may be a very clear specific set of solutions to it to me. It's a constant it erase and it's a constant force to be steps ahead of how people might utilize this in a negative way address that and then see new potential use cases that are negative. If we try to develop a perfect system that solves the problem quote on quote. We're just going to get it wrong and disc is going to evolve pass it to turn himself in in that way in so many different places. I would if I just get an example for you beyond the experiment you're running on making sure people have opened articles before sharing how you might keep iterating for good on Twitter.

I mean in terms of examples but one example is another experiment that we run in the past and that we're running which is for any particular article. That is shared. You might see one point of view in this direction. Another point of view that is slightly different and their point of view that is completely different just to show any kind of break through some of the bubbles so we don't end up actually built because I think that the hope and a hypothesis you might see these different takes and it might incentivize you till like really dig deep into the article actually watch the video that's being shared so you can have you know, your own informed point of view in and share your opinion as well. And I'm more of that variety and diverse perspective we have and I'll wait till we get to better answers one thing you have done if we haven't talked a lot here is Eva plaid a layer of kind of fact checking in flagging of things that are not accurate in may have

Navigate public consequence specially when it comes to something like in the coronavirus and I were talking about your Evolution from from growth to a focus on questions of speech. I wonder do you care if groups like conservatives in the US feel like you have a bias against them one of your peers Mark Zuckerberg does seem to care about that quite a bit. Do you care if some meaningful percentage of Americans feel that you are somehow suppressing them censoring them as part of your iterations and your growth by absolute come from a very conservative state of Missouri. We're at St. Louis. My hometown is much more liberal. So send this basket of conservatism and my dad is very much too conservative. So actually do care that we're building a system that does not take our own bias into account but feels fair and I think one way to show that is.

Continue to be a lot more transparent around our decisions continue to be clear in our policies, which know we haven't been in the past and we haven't been transferring around our actions in Hawaii behind a Twitter and no one who has better grasp the incentives of Twitter and how to exploit them then down this office with him before he was president and he talked to me about house a VR user of Twitter. He was and is and he would you agree with that statement the Donald Trump is one of the most def two users of of this platform of creative.

He said she's definitely used to to to great effect. I want to say he's in the show me the the most because it's just really a question of like what your what your goals are. I would say like is usage time to be consistent. He started in the particular way into not has remained consistent to today in sentence structure. Does that feel right? And he continues to use it to his advantage and given the emotional quality of his tweets. It suggests. The Twitter is still very much rewarding those incentives. How how would you set up? How would you say? It's rewarding? Well,

If Brett versus versus society rewarding versus you know, that the media constantly pointing the cameras on on that and putting all the attention on that, but how is people using Twitter different from the approach that we're seeing elsewhere?

I believe that was a rhetorical question, but TV is a mediated somewhat mediated form and for the most part until very recently on a present want to say something that contain misinformation that contained an outright lie that call the judge in name that expressed her racist sentiment that pretty much was his to do on your platform without any real layer or mediation and I got tons and tons and tons of retweets and pick up in a drug or completely ignoring the layer of people who pushed back on anyone took her to eat or reply to it or spray it with a correction to their followers and into hashtag Search terms so that there is mediation but it's a question of the people doing the mediation vs. Decentralized media doing it. So you're you're you're right there and it down like a lot of our policies and and focus in this particular area.

I really focused on like the Velocity in the spread of information and in the gaming of these systems and and where this might have harm if you were to see it and take it out of context of weed. We did label tweets of his that we felt could be harmful because they may have led people to believe that they were registered to vote when in fact they weren't and we didn't take the treats down. We have pended them with annotated them with information as to the facts expressed by the various institutions. There were doing the work around to registering voters. So I think it's important that we do recognize number one that these annotations are happening by the crowd in real time all the time and never to their particular areas such as your voter suppression and election Integrity that we should also take action upon

And we should make up policy as tight as possible and we should make those interventions as infrequently as possible. But the reality is they have to be there.

Are you prepared to ban Donald Trump from Twitter? If you feel that he has repeatedly violated your rules your terms of service and I asked is because you have banned from Twitter the most famous being Alex Jones Infowars because you all said that he didn't violated your rules around abusive Behavior. So does Donald Trump break those rules and I mean that because like I said before he attacks judges or he calls women dogs were false and misleading information on a on a routine basis. So we independent of any particular account. We we hold all accounts to the same rules. But you know, it's there a particular egregious aspects of violations of return the service we won't hesitate to take action on the accounts and use every tool that we have together with us or independent of the u.s. President or any leader around the world. We will take action if we if we feel it necessary.

I know people resist hypothetical special people in your position. But but sometimes they can be important and let's say that it is November 3rd or 4th or 5th or 6th or 7th because this is going to be a very unusual election and President Trump takes to Twitter and declares that he is the winner even though that's not yet clear or accurate and in some ways our democratic system at that moment. It's going to be very severely tested and if he makes that Declaration on Twitter, what do you do?

I guess I would look for opportunities to learn from the past. So do we not see some of this play out way back during Gore and Bush in Florida in terms of being confused as to what the unstated around what the election was and and and how that evolved. So look for Lessons Learned in history and work with our peers and Civil Society to to really understand what's going on and then make an informed decision. But as you said it it's

It's a hypothetical that the Wii U. No just need to think a lot more about in terms of like the Integrity of the conversation around the election and what that means and what that looks like and this is our number one Focus area for health of the public conversation in this country, which is the conversation around elections and you will see us continue to evolve our policy to protect the Integrity of the conversation around around elections.

Listening to you talk back. You are very measured you are, you are careful and you're the CEO of a platform that in its current form thrives on the most notorious for elevating the most as we said kind of hot Sensational charged views a colleague of erised anticipating a joke that if you tweet something that sounds like Jack Dorsey, it probably won't do all that well on Twitter and and honestly and honestly Twitter doesn't seem like you exactly you don't exactly seem like Twitter. So do you like Twitter right now? Do you like what it's become do you like it? What it is as it exists today one view of Twitter and I think it's a very specific view is that ass all focused on you know, these reactionary emotional headline clickbait tweets. Why not? Just not there.

Of the majority of our usage going to rub and not that it's not important to focus on news in politics and and how to change the discourse and not the sun important to help do everything that we can to fix it. But I think that the way to do that is is to listen to use a tool in such a way that like we can really understand how Society is evolving Technologies of all they know we can utilize to to help these problems in that in the first place. So yeah, I'm not I don't I don't use Twitter to get as much as bright as possible. I'd I use it to listen and to observe into and understands our world and my world and myself ultimately.

Bears Twitter doesn't change meaningfully from its current form. Does it remain deeply fought?

It would be silly for us not to change Twitter. So yes, it would be it would if it should become irrelevant if it doesn't change if it doesn't come seeing evolve and if it doesn't recognize gaps and opportunities to to get better, so absolutely.

That that would be that we would are not that irrelevance not secure case.

Oh. Thank you very much. We appreciate your time. Thank you. Thanks for doing it. Thank you so much.

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