6 min read

Kara Swisher, Recode co-founder, interviewed Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, yesterday over Twitter. The interview ( or ‘Twitterview’)  was conducted in tweets using the hashtag #KaraJack. It started at 5 pm ET and lasted for around 90-minutes. Let’s have a look at the top highlights from the interview.

On Fixing what is broke on Social Media and Physical safety

Swisher asked Dorsey why he isn’t moving faster in his efforts to fix the disaster that has been caused so far on social media. To this Dorsey replied that Twitter was trying to do “too much” in the past but that they have become better at prioritizing now. The number one focus for them now is a person’s “physical safety” i.e. the offline ramifications for Twitter users off the platform. “What people do offline with what they see online”, says Dorsey. Some examples of ‘offline ramifications’ being “doxxing” (harassment technique that reveals a person’s personal information on the internet) and coordinated harassment campaigns.

Dorsey further added that replies, searches, trends, mentions on Twitter are where most of the abuse happens and are the shared spaces people take advantage of. “We need to put our physical safety above all else. We don’t have all the answers just yet. But that’s the focus. I think it clarifies a lot of the work we need to do. Not all of it of course”, said Dorsey.

On Tech responsibility and improving the health of digital conversation on Twitter

When Swisher asked Dorsey what grading would he give to Silicon Valley and himself for embodying tech responsibility, he replied with “C” for himself. He said that Twitter has made progress but it’s scattered and ‘not felt enough’. He did not comment on what he thought of Silicon Valley’s work in this area.

Swisher further highlighted that the goal of improving Twitter conversations have only remained empty talk so far. She asked Dorsey if Twitter has made any actual progress in the last 18-24 months when it comes to addressing the issues regarding the “health of conversation” (which eventually plays into safety). Dorsey said these issues are the most important thing right now that they need to fix and it’s a failure on Twitter’s part to ‘put the burden on victims’. He did not share a specific example of improvements made to the platform to further this goal.

Swisher then questioned him on how he intends on fixing the issue, Dorsey mentioned that:

  • Twitter intends to be more proactive when it comes to enforcing healthy conversations so that reporting/blocking becomes the last resort. He mentioned that Twitter takes actions against all offenders who go against its policies but that the system works reactively to someone who reports it. “If they don’t report, we don’t see it. Doesn’t scale. Hence the need to focus on proactive”, said Dorsey.
  • Since Twitter is constantly evolving its policies to address the ‘current issues’, it’s rooting these in fundamental human rights (UN) and is making physical safety the top priority alongside privacy.

On lack of diversity

Swisher questioned Dorsey on his negligence towards addressing the issues. “I think it is because many of the people who made Twitter never ever felt unsafe,” adds Swisher. Dorsey admits that the “lack of diversity” didn’t help with the empathy of what people (especially women) experience on Twitter every day. He further adds that Twitter should be reflective of the people that it’s trying to serve, which is why they established a trust and safety council to get feedback.

Swisher then asks him to provide three concrete examples of what Twitter has done to fix this. Dorsey mentioned that Twitter has:

  • evolved its policies ( eg; misgendering policy).
  • prioritized proactive enforcement by using machine learning to downrank bad actors, meaning, they’ll look at the probability of abuse from any one account. This is because if someone else is abusing one account then they’re probably doing the same on other accounts.
  • Given more user control in a product, such as muting of accounts with no profile picture, etc.
  • More focus on coordinated behavior/gaming.

On Dorsey’s dual CEO role

Swisher asked him why he insists on being the CEO of two publicly traded companies (Twitter and Square Inc.) that both require maximum effort at the same time. Dorsey said that his main focus is on building leadership in both and that it’s not his ambition to be CEO of multiple companies “just for the sake of that”.

She further questioned him if he has any plans in mind to hire someone as his “number 2”. Dorsey said it’s better to spread that kind of responsibility across several people as it reduces dependencies and the company gets more options for future leadership. “I’m doing everything I can to help both. Effort doesn’t come down to one person. It’s a team”, he said.

On Twitter breaks, Donald Trump and Elon Musk

When initially asked about what Dorsey feels about people not feeling good after being for a while on Twitter, he said he feels “terrible” and that it’s depressing.

“We made something with one intent. The world showed us how it wanted to use it. A lot has been great. A lot has been unexpected. A lot has been negative. We weren’t fast enough to observe, learn, and improve”, said Dorsey. He further added that he does not feel good about how Twitter tends to incentivize outrage, fast takes, short term thinking, echo chambers, and fragmented conversations.

Swisher then questioned Dorsey on whether Twitter has ever intended on suspending Donald Trump and if Twitter’s business/engagement would suffer when Trump is no longer the president. Dorsey replied that Twitter is independent of any account or person and that although the number of politics conversations has increased on Twitter, that’s just one experience. He further added that Twitter is ready for 2020 elections and that it has partnered up with government agencies to improve communication around threats.

Moreover, on being asked about the most exciting influential on Twitter, Dorsey replied with Elon Musk. He said he likes how Elon is focused on solving existential problems and sharing his thinking openly. On being asked he thought of how Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is using Twitter, he replied that she is ‘mastering the medium’.

Although Swisher managed to interview Dorsey over Twitter, the ‘Twitterview’ got quite confusing soon and went out of order. The conversations seemed all over the place and as Kurt Wagner, tech journalist from Recode puts it, in order to find a permanent thread of the chat, you had to visit one of either Kara or Jack’s pages and continually refresh”. This made for a difficult experience overall and points towards the current flaws within the conversation system on Twitter. Many users tweeted out their opinion regarding the same:

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