Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey is funding research aimed at changing the way information circulates on social media — with the goal of combating online violence, hate and disinformation. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 12 December 2019

Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

  • The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
  • He said Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it

Twitter Inc. plans to set up an independent research group to create an “open and decentralized” system for social networks, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, which could relieve pressure on the company to appease critics of its content policies but also give rise to a new crop of competitors.
The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, Dorsey said, and would enable individuals to use a variety of services to access the same network, just like they choose different email providers to see the same messages.
Policing speech on social media sites has required hefty investments while still failing to stem criticism from users who find the policies either too aggressive or too lax.
“Centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people,” Dorsey tweeted.
He said the new approach would also allow Twitter to “focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past.”

The idea, as outlined in articles Dorsey shared, is that developers could use their own algorithms to offer like-minded individuals targeted access to the same social media networks.
For instance, an individual could sign up with a provider that would aggressively filter out racist material, or another that would promote conversations over other types of content.
The open standard, however, could upend Twitter’s business model in the process, giving rise to competitor services that offer filters, content suggestions or other tools that prove more popular with consumers.
In an article that Dorsey shared called “Protocols, Not Platforms,” tech news site Techdirt founder Mike Masnick outlined how an open standard could give rise to a “competition for business models” among developers.
Some providers might collect less user data for ads, while others might abandon advertising altogether, instead charging users for access to premium services like filters or data storage, Masnick wrote.
Dorsey said Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will be in charge of hiring a lead for the research team, called BlueSky. Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it, he said.
He went on to suggest that blockchain technology might provide a model for decentralizing content hosting, oversight and even monetization of social media, without elaborating on possible alternatives to Twitter’s ads-driven business.


Trump threatens to ‘close down’ social media after tweets tagged

Updated 28 May 2020

Trump threatens to ‘close down’ social media after tweets tagged

  • Twitter for the first time acted against US president's false tweets
  • For years, Twitter has been accused of ignoring the president's breaking of platform rules

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to shutter social media platforms after Twitter for the first time acted against his false tweets, prompting the enraged Republican to double down on unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories.
Twitter tagged just two of Trump's tweets in which he'd claimed that more mail-in voting would lead to what he called a "Rigged Election" this November.
There is no evidence that attempts are being made to rig the election and under the tweets Twitter posted a link which read "Get the facts about mail-in ballots."
For years, Twitter has been accused of ignoring the president's breaking of platform rules with his daily, often hourly barrages of personal insults and inaccurate information sent to more than 80 million followers.

 


But Twitter's slap on the wrist was enough to drive Trump into an early Wednesday morning meltdown -- on Twitter -- in which he claimed that the right-wing in the United States is being censored.
"Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen," he said.
He dived right back into his narrative that an increase in mail-in ballots -- seen in some states as vital for allowing people to avoid crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic -- will undermine the election.
"We can't let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots.
"Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!" he wrote.
The president, whose reelection strategy has been knocked off track by the coronavirus pandemic, likewise accused social media platforms of interfering in the last election, saying "we saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016."
An unrepentant Trump also recommenced spreading a conspiracy theory about a prominent television critic, Joe Scarborough, whom the president is trolling with accusations that he murdered a woman in 2001.
"Psycho Joe Scarborough is rattled, not only by his bad ratings but all of the things and facts that are coming out on the internet about opening a Cold Case. He knows what is happening!" Trump tweeted.
There has never been any evidence that Scarborough, a host on MSNBC, had anything to do with the death of Lori Klausutis, who was a staffer in his office when he was a Republican Congressman.
She was found by investigators to have died after hitting her head during a fall, triggered by an abnormal heart rhythm.
However, the rumor has been pushed for years and Trump is its latest, easily highest profile promoter, refusing to stop even after Klausutis' widower made an impassioned appeal to halt the "vicious lie."
"I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him -- the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain," he wrote in a letter to Twitter, published Tuesday by The New York Times.
Twitter said in a statement that it was "deeply sorry" about the family's "pain," but did not take any action against Trump's tweets.
For all his protests, Trump is a political giant on social media.
His campaign takes huge pride in its enormous presence on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms that are tied into an unprecedented level of funding and data collection.
Social media also seems to suit Trump's unorthodox communications style -- and his penchant for conspiracy theories, rumors and playground-style insults.
Before being elected in 2016, Trump built his political brand by supporting the "birther" lie that Barack Obama, America's first black president, was not born in the United States and therefore was not eligible to be president.
Now that he faces Obama's vice president Joe Biden as the Democratic challenger in November, Trump is again using Twitter to attack the popular Obama. Trump's claim that the Democrat was part of a "coup" attempt during the early days of his administration has a Twitter hashtag #ObamaGate that the president publishes regularly.
The claim that Twitter is biased against conservatives fits the White House narrative that the billionaire president is still an outsider politician running against the elite.
The row is also a useful smokescreen when Biden is homing in on widespread dissatisfaction with Trump's handling of the pandemic, which has left nearly 100,000 Americans dead. Polls consistently show Biden in a strong position, despite barely having left his own home during weeks of social distancing measures.