- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey spoke about harassment and misinformation on his platform at TED 2019 on Wednesday.
- A day earlier, the reporter who broke the Cambridge Analytica scandal criticised Dorsey, among other tech moguls, for allowing abuse to spread on social media.
- Dorsey said Twitter is working to address the issue, but acknowledged that “the system makes it super easy to harass and abuse others.”
- Dorsey said if he could conceive of Twitter again, he wouldn’t count people’s “likes,” which don’t encourage “healthy” content.
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Dorsey spoke with the head of TED, Chris Anderson, and the conference’s current affairs curator, Whitney Pennington Rodgers, about that very controversy.
“We have seen abuse, we have seen harassment, we have seen manipulation, automation, human coordination, misinformation,” Dorsey said. “These are dynamics that we were not expecting 13 years ago.”
Dorsey said his biggest worry was his ability to address the issue in a systemic way. He recognised that Twitter has created a “pretty terrible situation” for women – and particularly women of colour – but said the company was relying more on machine learning to identify abusive tweets as opposed to having people individually report them.
“Right now the system makes it super easy to harass and abuse others,” Dorsey said.
One of the problems with the current platform, he said, is that is places undue weight on followers and likes. Dorsey said if he could go back and re-create Twitter, he “wouldn’t even have a like count in the first place.”
Even as the CEO was discussing his plans to combat abuse, he received pushback both on and off-stage.
Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who broke the Cambridge Analytica scandal, tweeted live questions to Dorsey, asking about her own experience with harassment on Twitter:
Ooh exciting. @jack is taking questions from Twitter users live at TED today. Anyone?? I’d like to know why a video that showed me being beaten up & threatened with a gun to soundtrack of Russian anthem stayed up for 72 hours despite 1000s of complaints, @jack?#AskJackAtTED pic.twitter.com/KuRdNoDyAY
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) April 16, 2019
A day earlier at TED, Cadwalladr referred to Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as “handmaidens to authoritarianism” for allowing abuse to spread on social media.
On stage, Chris Anderson continued to question why Dorsey hadn’t tackled the issue with more urgency. He joked with the CEO that the world was joining him on a “great voyage” called the “Twit-tanic,” with the public warning him that there’s an iceberg ahead.
“We go to the bridge and you’re exhibiting this great calm, but we’re all going, ‘Jack, turn the f-ing wheel,” Anderson said, to laughter from both Dorsey and the crowd.
Check out Dorsey’s full TED talk below:
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