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Twitter's awfully big adventure at the White House - and beyond

Twitter's awfully big adventure at the White House - and beyond

by Jackie A

6 months ago


Twitter's awfully big adventure at the White House - and beyond

by Jackie A

6 months ago

Twitter's awfully big adventure at the White House - and beyond
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey (above right) was summoned to the White House for a telling off last week

Before the 30 minute meeting on Tuesday, Trump complained to his 59 million followers that Twitter was "very discriminatory" and didn't treat him well "as a Republican." He also wrote it was "hard for people to sign on". (It literally takes seconds, even for me).

Trump's biggest gripe was the size of his followers - 

no mention of why it took Dorsey so long to start moving hate speech and harassment off his site (obvs) 

Size dominated the Oval Room conversation according to The Washington Post and The Daily Beast. Trump believes Twitter has been intentionally stripping him of follower numbers and his tweet earlier included: "Should be much higher than that if Twitter wasn’t playing their political games" adding "different names - over 100m". Who might that be? Guessing it's not Katy Perry who at 107m is the world's no 1 tweeter. No 2 is former President Barack Obama at 106m.
Almost double Trump's. 

Dorsey patiently explained to Trump that his 'lost followers' were bots and spam accounts 

Last July, Twitter began removing tens of millions of suspicious and fake accounts including 'locked accounts' — ones it puts a temporary lock on until owners validate them and change their passwords. Trump’s count immediately dropped by 100,000, while Obama’s fell by 400,000. Oops. 

To explain the legal bits Dorsey brought along his impressive counsel, Vijaya Gadde, who once retweeted that Trump was "puerile"  

The March 2016 retweet from NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof added that Trump was  "ill-informed, evasive and deceptive". Awkward, but Gadde remains unfazed. Last month she told The Washington Post that Twitter was considering labelling tweets which violated its rules (Trump constantly insults people on Twitter) but which the company permits to remain online because they are "in the public interest". Go girl.  

The meeting was part of Dorsey's Great Apology Tour 

Billionaire Jack Dorsey, who used to sport dreadlocks, has come full circle by ditching his designer suits and as one wag put it: "now looks like George Harrison after he met the Maharishi". He has been podcasting and apologising his way round the US for months (he's done Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Bill Simmons and Rolling Stone) in sartorially appropriate long hair, beard and beanie. For the Trump meeting, he left the beanie off.  

Dorsey, now worth $5.1 bn, says his biggest regret is this... 

The world's (and Trump's) obsession with 'likes' and 'followers'. In a bid to tackle abusive tweets, Dorsey told a recent live conversation with TED curators Chris Anderson and Whitney Pennington that if he could start all over again he would "not emphasize the ‘follower’ count as much. I would not emphasize the ‘like’ count as much." Surely his biggest regret is his baby transmogrified into a platform for haters?

He had to apologise to his staff for taking a meeting with the type of person most would like to see banned from Twitter  

Before the Trump meeting Dorsey wrote on an internal email: "Some of you will be very supportive of our meeting [with] the president, and some of you might feel we shouldn’t take this meeting at all. In the end, I believe it’s important to meet heads of state in order to listen, share our principles and our ideas.” 
It certainly made the company richer...

Genuflecting to Trump worked a treat for Wall Street

 Twitter's stock jumped over 15% on the day of the meeting, albeit mostly in response to its Q1 2019 earnings of $787 million which crushed estimates of $776  million. The stock surged 17 percent following the news. In its Letter to Shareholders, Twitter claims it's making progress in rule violations and physical, or off-platform, safety and that 38% of abusive Tweets are flagged by machine learning.   

Yet Twitter is still pulling its punches over far right white supremacists 

 A report last week by tech website Motherboard said Twitter could use algorithms to purge white-supremacist content from its platform completely - as it's done with ISIS - but it would sweep up considerable US Republican politicians' accounts too. Perhaps even Republican racist Steve King's. In January, King told The New York Times he didn’t understand why the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalism” were offensive. 
Last week, following Easter, he compared himself to Jesus for the persecution he was forced to endure as a result.
(I mean ... he's from Iowa). 

Twitter chief Dorsey is not without his own haters

Dorsey meditates daily, takes ice baths and indulges in extreme fasting (read starving), always a contentious idea. He recently tweeted: "Been playing with fasting for some time. I do a 22 hour fast daily (dinner only), and recently did a 3 day water fast. Biggest thing I notice is how much time slows down. Any one else have this experience?"
 @rgay had this to say: "Ahh yes. Disordered eating to approximate the suffering induced by poverty and/or access to potable water. Playing is so much fun."

While Facebook is increasingly for oldies and Instagram's for millennials, Twitter remains the most brutal - and yet politically influential - of them all. 


 Twitter now has 330 million monthly active users worldwide.

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