Twitter didn’t anticipate the amount of abuse and misinformation its service would help facilitate, admitted CEO Jack Dorsey in a series of tweets Thursday morning. “We didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences,” Dorsey said.
“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers,” he continued frankly. “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.”
Dorsey said that the company had tried to combat the downsides of its service with a reactive approach, which at times had fallen short of its audience’s expectations. “We‘ve been accused of apathy, censorship, political bias, and optimizing for our business and share price instead of the concerns of society,” he wrote. “This is not who we are, or who we ever want to be.”
Going forward, Dorsey committed to increasingly focus on using Twitter to facilitate healthy conversations, instead of just combating unhealthy ones. For that, Twitter is looking to partner with outside experts to figure out how to even measure the health of public conversations. The company put out a public request for proposals from scientists and research organizations, and vows to fund work to help it measure public health on Twitter.
“What we know is we must commit to a rigorous and independently vetted set of metrics to measure the health of public conversation on Twitter,” Dorsey said. “We must commit to sharing our results publicly to benefit all who serve the public conversation.”
Twitter isn’t the only social media company to expand its focus from anti-abuse measures to a more holistic take on reinforcing positive sentiments and healthy conversations. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has in recent months also talked about putting a bigger emphasis on building community, and his company has begun to publish some research on the effect using Facebook has on mental health. The gist of that research was that passive consumption can have negative consequences, whereas active participation is a net positive.
Dorsey, for his part, seemed to acknowledge Thursday that there may be no easy solutions to turn Twitter into a healthier platform: “Definitely don’t believe this will be easy,” he tweeted. “That’s why we must be more open.”