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It’s interesting, though not surprising, that every time I do press interviews these days, I’m being set up to bag on Twitter and social media generally.
101 replies and sub-replies as of May 23 2019

I was intro’d on CNBC yesterday with something along the lines of “after a long history in Silicon Valley, Ev Williams has come to a conclusion: SOCIAL MEDIA IS TOXIC.” Um...WTF.
I’m not sure in what (if any) context I said toxic, but it was almost certainly with qualifiers (like “can be”). The interviewer, @dee_bosa, was not the one who said it and gave me a chance to address that intro. But of course I had about 10 seconds and nuance is hard.
I still strongly believe open platforms like Twitter are important for society. *And* it is almost impossible to capture the good without getting some bad. *And* there is much that should (and will) be done to make these places (this place) more civil.
*And*, yes, we (Twitter) should have invested more heavily in abuse before. I think we did more in the early days than we often get credit for (and they are doing way more today). *And* I personally underestimated the looming problem during my brief tenure as CEO.
Had I been more aware of how people not like me were being treated and/or had I had a more diverse leadership team or board, we may have made it a priority sooner.
I can’t say for sure, because the problem was small then and frankly we were under water just trying to make the damn thing work.
Anyway, I am confident there are things that can be done. I also don’t know exactly what those things are. Stop asking me! :) If I come up with a brilliant idea, I’ll let the company know.
It’s certainly not as easy as many commentators seem to think—at least not if you want to retain many of the benefits.
I’m sure there are many good ideas out there—both within platform companies and outside. We had a principle in the early days of Twitter that @biz and I always shared with new employees: There are more smart people outside the company than inside.
We always wanted to remain openminded and find good ideas where we could. From what I know of the people at Twitter today, they have this same attitude. If you have constructive ideas, I’d be interested in seeing them. (Publish them on Medium—or start a company!)
Just know that without the data and information the smart people working on this problem every day have, it’s hard to know. And most theories don’t work in practice. That said, they *are* making progress.
Lastly, as I think about hitting the send button on this thread, I’m aware of an irony, which is that coming off in defense of or excusing Twitter around abuse issues is likely to be met with vitriol...on Twitter.
I probably won’t read the replies so it doesn’t matter that much. But I’ll know they’re there.
I had dinner the other night with a famous person who does (or did) read their replies and who was quite upset at the abuse he’d seen. I felt for him. We’ve enabled people to be nasty in a new and visible way that didn’t exist before.
Perhaps just as many people had those terrible views before but they stayed inside their heads or within their family (to infect the next generation of bigots). Perhaps those views are being exacerbated or even created by access to other assholes via the internet.
Perhaps they don’t even have those views and are just trying to be *seen* by someone anywhere because they didn’t get enough validation as children. I don’t know. We all have our dysfunctions.
Whatever the case, no one would argue that this particular aspect of this system is a force for good.
Frankly, I rarely tweet anything other than a link, because I don’t enjoy debating with strangers in a public setting. Even polite ones. I can think of fewer activities that are as time-consuming *and* frustrating. Perhaps golf. But at least then you get nature.
That’s just me. I read Twitter a lot (have to put that caveat in there, so there’s not a “Twitter cofounder doesn’t use Twitter anymore” story). But I always preferred to think of it as an information network, rather than a social network. I realize of course that it is both.
And that is both the beauty and the problem. People.
Is the temperature from the Outside or just from me generating heat or a little o both? Things I've learned from this insufferable inferno and hotel.
We can't really tell where the heat is coming from because we too generate heat. Copy.
Here’s the thing: if you have a public event that draws thousands of people and can’t provide for emergency services, sure most people won’t get hurt, but what you are doing is wrong and you should get shut down. Hire moderators. Kick off nazis.
The question of public discourse, civil society and extremism has been solved since the 1950’s. Well and truly solved. The only thing tech has brought is a callous indifference to history and willful ignorance of the well known and well defined solution: deplatforming.
Ask someone in newspaper publishing who is at least two decades older than you what they did about nazis. You could have done the same, but chose not to. (Everywhere except Germany, where they had the good sense to enshrine it in law)
Twitter is a private party full of assholes, they have absolute unfettered power to kick those assholes out. That they choose not to is a moral failure on their part. They own those assholes and their ongoing behavior on their own, private platform.
If twitter lacks the economic ability to effectively moderate, they shouldn’t be in business.
, just want to validate that this is a wicked hard problem, having worked on it from time to time stretching back years myself, including on Blogger. (I’m not famous so my words aren’t dissected and used for clickbait, so I have that going for me.)
It’s not a hard problem. It’s been solved since 1945 with Karl Popper and the paradox of tolerance. Tech companies think it is “hard” because they care more about making money than civil discourse.
Moderation is expensive and slows growth so the *least* moderated social network wins. Ethics are a competitive disadvantage.
Are you willing to pay $1000 a year to have your tweets and those you read moderated first?
Great question! If you have a public event that thousands of people show up to but you can’t afford emergency services, sanitation, or basic security, sure its popular, and people would be bummed if it was shut down, but it should be.
It’s like business that day they can’t afford to pay a living wage: perhaps they don’t really have a viable business?
And finally, yes, I vastly prefer to pay for the services I use. When an online service is free, you are the product being sold. I’d rather be the customer than the product. You?
So to answer you question, yes, it would be great if sports events with tens of thousands of people were both free and responsibly produced and staffed. But if you can’t afford to keep people safe? If you can’t afford to staff your event? It’s a public safety hazard.
Your company is biased against conservative ideology
Take off the tin foil hat conspiracy theorist
L'enfer c'est les autres
If anything validates how Twitter handles this very layered & complex puzzle it’s that there are comments of frustration below from both progressives and conservatives.
Problem with these platforms and their team are they finding the solutions of problems they identified but they need is to solve the cause/reasons problems are created.
Reminds me of this quote: If it weren't for the people, the god-damn people' said Finnerty, 'always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren't for them, the world would be an engineer's paradise. —Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano
Too bad it wasn’t called the civil network because civility was hopelessly lost somewhere down the line.
Who cares what someone else says? Everyone has an opinion and it’s just the internet. People get put out too much today.
Sure,fox is the one censoring people,creating fake news like cnn,selling conspiracy theories for 3 years,accusing the president treator without a single proof to back up their adical agenda.Communists have always hate freedom of expresion and different opinions. Well done FASCIST
I absolutely agree. I starting using Twitter because I read a lot of blogs to stay up-to-date on my careers trends and best practices. Twitter allowed me to follow the thought leaders in my industry and have them curate the information for me.
Very smart way to look at it.
It’s all about the curation. The GIGO principal is always present.
Actually with allowing trump to spew his hate on Twitter without being held accountable, it has become a site for hate and white supremacy! It’s sad how it targets some and let’s others hate spew away. And so much Porn😬 Does anyone not monitor twitter?
Ev, I know you rarely if ever respond but when created and sometimes even now a lot of Good came out of Twitter. Met my mentors on this platform. Met those who became friends IRL. Twitter at times is more then info, it’s conversation that matters.
I agree on most of what you said, but for me as an avid twitter user to raise awareness, find fake accounts with fake pictures a menace
Was that originally incorporated in the twitter idea to create fake accounts with fake pictures & same person behind 1000's of accounts
CBS comment section some 15years ago was absolutely fun & useful to raise awareness. Abuse factor for me is over blown by thin skins 😎
I also believe that block option is a no brain & is being excessively abused by same thin skin participants to avoid looking bad (Yes)
Debating strangers in public can suck, for sure, but is that worth missing out on the chance to engage with people you don’t yet know? Isn’t the greater danger for you at this stage of your isolated? How would you & I meet on social media today, like we did through Blogger?
Anil, Tis a good note & I’d add there are people who like the townsquare yelling & those who don’t. Even the Fowle brothers & Thomas Paine during the American Revolution would say a townsquare was often even more raucous during our greatest achievements. (But rarely anonymous.)
I just don’t think what happens on Twitter is really “debate.” Or at least it’s like presidential tv debates where the format is skewed toward zingers rather than a synthesis of understanding
Agreed. But the positive, generative conversations are not so performative, and are real, and that's what's getting drowned out by the garbage.
Feels like flowers finding purchase in the sidewalk cracks. I do value twitter for exposing me to new perspectives but the “conversation” side is unsolved (and remains a fascination for me despite my own failures to solve)
I would say we’ve seen the desire of the community to expand the idea of “conversations” when they started to bend the system to their needs by stringing together tweets to create threads—ultimately that behavior was codified into code. We’re still in the infancy of social media.
cc @ptraughber don’t miss this Tweet
Agree, and having personal filters (not reading replies) can help, just as I never used to read comments on my cnn opeds (which could be in 1000s). They suppressed the comment function for a reason.
In 5 years public commenting will be over, and we’ll find it humorous that we even tried it.
You “I probably won’t read the replies.... But I’ll know they’re there.” But you don’t think social media, on the whole, is toxic? You’re afraid to even look at how your customers use your reply feature but you let it stay in your product. Social media is occasionally NOT toxic.
I love this and if I had the chance to meet with Biz or Jack, I'd tell them a great idea to fix at least one of the problems with journalistic integrity/fake news/perception of news, whatever you want to call it.
Makes perfect sense you’d completely cripple the API then.
How does deplatforming Nazis decrease the benefits of twitter? They’re 2 separate things...
This bit. If you’re not ready, don’t ship. Like Facebook not being ready to censor live feeds. TV added 7sec delay because they thought it through. You buggers just ship it and see and now look where you’re at.
Thanks for this! I saw your talk at #Collision2019. Would be great to hear more about actions to ensure your leadership teams for current/future endeavors are more representative. Studies say representative leadership drives better product, $ results, stock price. #FiduciaryDuty
Silicon Valley dude bro who say he won't read any responses is still bullish on *social media.* 🤦‍♂️ Also acknowledges board maybe shouldn't have been all white dude bros. Then says the problem is "people" which is partly true but no acknowledgement of mass/nat'l interference. 🤷‍♂️
I can honestly say that the old T&S and policy teams had some of the best in the field. People who cared deeply but couldn't stem the flow.
Here’s the thing: if you have a public event that draws thousands of people and can’t provide for emergency services, sure most people won’t get hurt, but what you are doing is wrong and you should get shut down. Hire moderators. Kick off nazis.
Open source Twitter or workplace democracy now. Come on, let's try something different rather than yet another proprietary capitalist company
I know you don't read replies, but that being said, please be careful as an influencer when it comes to terms like, "civil" and "make these places more civil". Because the line between tampering harassment and censoring real viewpoints is razor thin.
Your false equivalence is really a nasty strategy. Twitter's left integrity behind and y'all should just lay it out and say so.
This is one of the lead bullets from a 2018 article on Businesss Insider: Williams believes social media has become toxic. "I've pretty much weaned myself off of being addicted to social media," he tells Business Insider in an exclusive interview.
It is. Shut Twitter and win the Nobel Peace Prize.
I love Twitter and believe it has done a lot to amplify the voices within marginalized communities and given people a platform to communicate in an amazing way. Honest question though, Ev: why wasn't the leadership team/board more diverse from the outset?
It’s well worded Ev. The one caveat for me... civility is not the issue. Society is messy on the civility issue. The weaponizing and fraudulent anonymity that normal society doesn’t (& can’t) allow is the problem. (But not to debate. Just my thought worth as little as a tweet) .
Try @Medium for such long threads.
Trumptinnitus is going around.
I wish they would separate and distinguish between their mission of conversational health, and user experience/satisfaction. Because protecting what they define as conversational health is harming the experience for many users. I'm sure that isn't the goal...just the opposite.
For good reason. Twitter is not doing enough to prevent the abused and weaponization of toxic ideas on the platform. Do better, and people won't set you up.
idk I didn't do that
I don't know why social media is attacked as "toxic" when you are going to come across toxic speech whether it's in text or from someone's mouth, everywhere you go. I think it's a matter of learning to be smart enough to deal with it or ignore it, or freedom of speech is history.
They build them up and tear them down.
“Dinosaurores pressores fakeum modalis” of yesterday are jealous because they are being abandoned for greener pastures of social media. Billions love social media more than “complaining tongues of loveless hearts.” 🐾
No conservative or honest person feels bad for Social Media giants getting bashed. You clearly, without a doubt, do not care about us.
I believe @Twitter is the most important tool of the internet.
Frustrated outpourings won't fix a leaky global tent that needs patching. The flow of communication/ideas is muddied w/verbal attacks, threats of violence, ignorance & crude thugginess. Rouse from the rosy dreams of bldg. an open pipeline w/o filters. Junk ruins natural streams.