December 1, 2021

Jack Dorsey Resigns

On Monday, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey announced his resignation from the company. “He will be succeeded by Twitter’s current chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal.” Twitter, AP News

On Tuesday, Twitter announced new rules banning “media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.” Twitter

Here’s our prior coverage of Twitter banning President Trump’s account and the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left praises Dorsey’s tenure and doesn’t foresee major changes following his departure.

“[Some tech moguls] seem to be getting bored and restless with their jobs, and they’re striking out in search of adventure. Jeff Bezos’ wanderlust led him to step down from Amazon this year and fulfill his childhood fantasy of going to space. Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, stepped down in 2019 and have since been investing in futuristic projects like airships and flying taxis. Mark Zuckerberg is still running Facebook, but it’s called Meta now, and the company’s big metaverse pivot seems to be designed in part to infuse some novelty and excitement back into a staid, big-company culture…

“One cynical interpretation of what’s happening with Mr. Dorsey and his peers is that they’re simply trying to evade responsibility — shooting themselves into space and fooling around in crypto while other people clean up the messes they made at their old jobs. Still, there’s something to be said for knowing when to pass the torch.”
Kevin Roose, New York Times

“Dorsey was in some ways an unconventional leader, and under his guidance, Twitter did things a little differently. While Twitter suffers the same problems around hate speech, extremism, and harassment that every major social media platform faces, it has managed to garner praise from members of the social media research community for offering more transparency, at least compared to competitors, about what goes viral on its platform. And the company clearly wields incredible influence as the social media platform of choice for world leaders, journalists, and many celebrities and newsworthy figures…

“While it’s still too early to say if and how Twitter will operate any differently under Agrawal’s watch, what we do know is the company is losing its vision-oriented, original-thinking founding leader.”
Shirin Ghaffary, Vox

Some worry that “Like the Internet generally, instead of a machine for speech without ‘barriers,’ Twitter is becoming, precisely, a mechanism for tightened elite control over expression, a thought-policed platitude sanctuary…

“Most speech advocates saw [Dorsey] as someone who pushed back against some of the crazier demands for censorship. Even though there are already some absurd overreactions to new CEO Parag Agrawal based on misreads of 11-year-old tweets, there are statements that do give cause for concern, like a Technology Review interview from last year in which he said things like, ‘We attempt to not adjudicate truth, we focus on potential for harm.’ Dorsey seemed anxious to limit the company’s speech interventions to things like electoral fraud and health misinformation, but aggressive censors can make harm mean almost anything.”
Matt Taibbi, TK News

Others argue that while the new CEO “had promising things to say [in 2020] about balancing what people can say on the platform in a way that keeps it from becoming a cesspool of toxicity… Agrawal, like Dorsey, who so desperately wanted to be different, exists in a system that points every social media company toward roughly the same ends: make as much money by capturing as much of our time as possible. No mainstream platform has figured out how to do that without avoiding all of the problems that come with such a business model. There’s no reason to expect a new Twitter CEO will be any different.”
Ali Breland, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right worries that the new CEO will be even less protective of speech than Dorsey.

The right worries that the new CEO will be even less protective of speech than Dorsey.

“Dorsey was, among all those in the tech world, more attuned than most to the dangers posed by his company and his industry. Dorsey admitted that throttling access to the Hunter Biden story was ‘a total mistake.’ Dorsey also, unlike Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, admits that regulating platforms would have a detrimental effect on free expression because it would protect the massive incumbents from the threat of competition. In his prepared testimony, Dorsey also pointed out that a government-regulated platform would inevitably become a platform where criticism of the government was prohibited or chilled…

“Post-Dorsey, I expect Twitter to become more censorious, to lobby for more regulations, and to become an active participant in the Left’s culture-war offenses.”
Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

“Jack Dorsey is leaving his platform in the hands of Parag Agrawal, the company’s chief technology officer, a man who last year said Twitter’s ‘role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation,’ and to ‘focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.’ Agrawal’s false binary, between healthy discourse and the First Amendment, is alarming but unsurprising…

“Setting the First Amendment—both as a legal and cultural norm—at odds with ‘a healthy public conversation’ is obviously en vogue with culturally leftist elites. The mentality has informed a host of damaging decisions in media, entertainment, tech, and business in the last decade… It’s also based on postmodern nonsense. A ‘healthy public conversation’ must include all perspectives so the correct and moral ones can emerge and prevail in the court of public opinion, rather than being adjudicated by elites and protected with force from criticism…

“We should not want anyone who accepts the premise that ‘free speech’ is an outmoded ambition to control major corporate platforms.”
Emily Jashinsky, The Federalist

Regarding Twitter’s new policy, “If we’re talking about someone’s high-school senior portrait, well, okay. However, if the pictures come from a public protest, then it’s not a privacy issue at all. People have the right to take pictures in the public square and do not have to get consent to either take those pictures or publish them — unless they expect to profit commercially from an individual’s image, which is a grayer area. Making one’s self into a public figure by conducting public protests means forgoing the privacy concerns, at least as far as the law goes…

“So which of these can provoke a ban — private images from non-public events, or images from public demonstrations? Twitter Safety doesn’t say, but their statement suuuure insinuates that it’s the latter as well as the former…

“At least for now, Twitter isn’t explaining this very clearly, and probably for good reason. That ambiguity is likely strategic, as it allows Twitter’s bureaucrats to arbitrarily apply this rule based on their own biases and beliefs. Consider that their explanation assures users that they will ‘always try to assess the context’ of the picture to see whether it is posted ‘in the public interest,’ or whether it will ‘add value to public discourse’ or ‘relevant to the community.’ Nothing arbitrary, capricious, or subjective about that, right? Right?”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

A libertarian's take

“Pause a moment and reflect just how odd a business Twitter really is. In one respect, it is by far the most influential social media service, commanding astonishing mindshare among powerful elites. The media is obsessed with it. Corporations cringe before its outrage campaigns. Donald Trump used it to end-run all the usual political gatekeepers and make himself president. But as a business, it’s close to a flop… Since going public in 2012, Facebook’s stock has soared almost ninefold. Twitter, which went public a year later, has … not even doubled…

“New York University business school professor Scott Galloway argues that moving to a subscription model, at least for accounts with lots of followers, could fix much of what ails both the company and its users: give Twitter a stable source of recurring revenue, and relieve the need to drive engagement and ad impressions with polarizing negative content… But how much better would we really behave on such a service? Don’t we keep going back because we love the misery, if not the company? If, as I suspect, the answer is yes, one question remains: How many people would pay to be constantly agonized by an algorithm?”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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