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.


Pakistan lifts TikTok ban after pledge on ‘indecent’ content

Updated 19 October 2020

Pakistan lifts TikTok ban after pledge on ‘indecent’ content

  • TikTok said it in a statement it had committed to enforcing ‘community guidelines and complying with local laws’
  • Neighboring India has already banned the app, along with dozens of other Chinese mobile platforms

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Monday it would lift a recent ban on the video-sharing app TikTok after assurances that “immoral” content would be blocked.
The Chinese-owned platform, which is wildly popular among the country’s youth, was banned earlier this month over what authorities in the ultra-conservative Islamic country deemed “immoral, obscene and vulgar” content.
But the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said Monday said it had received assurances from TikTok that the company will “block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immorality.”
It warned, however, that it would be banned permanently if it failed to moderate posts.
TikTok said it in a statement it had committed to enforcing “community guidelines and complying with local laws” but did not comment on what morality or decency standards it had agreed to.
Arslan Khalid, a digital media adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan, previously tweeted that the “exploitation, objectification & sexualization” of young girls on TikTok was causing pain to parents.
But freedom of speech advocates have long criticized the creeping government censorship and control of Pakistan’s Internet and printed and electronic media.
Owned by China’s ByteDance, TikTok has also faced increasing controversy over how it collects and uses data although it has repeatedly denied sharing user information with Chinese authorities.
Officials in the United States have accused it of being a national security risk and President Donald Trump has said he wants it taken out of Chinese hands.
In Pakistan — a close ally of China — no privacy concerns have been raised.
Neighboring India has already banned the app, along with dozens of other Chinese mobile platforms.