Dec 11, 2019

Twitter aims to build an open standard for social networks

Jack Dorsey. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted on Wednesday that his company is funding an effort to build an open source, decentralized social network that Twitter would ultimately become one of many services users could interact with.

Why it matters: It's a bold move that could broaden the reach of Twitter's network, but it could also open the door for direct competitors. Plus, similar efforts in the past have struggled to take off.

Details: In a pair of tweets, Dorsey offered a few details on the effort, which it is calling BlueSky.

"Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media," Dorsey said. "The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard."

Asked to elaborate, Twitter offered a short statement:

"We’ve long demonstrated our commitment to doing critical work in the open and empowering people to build off of the fundamentals of our service. Apart from the technical elements outlined by Jack today, this is about exploring the fullest and most participatory vision of our service. In 2020, we will be raising our voice more prominently to support and foster these values. We’re excited to share more."
— Twitter statement to Axios

Go deeper

Twitter's bid for a social network standard draws skepticism

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Jack Dorsey's plan to fund an open source network standard left many people scratching their heads as to what Twitter's CEO hopes to accomplish.

Why it matters: Twitter is under pressure to better crack down on bots, hate speech and misinformation, but it is unclear how open standards will help address any of these issues.

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Why Twitter won't flag Trump's tweets on Iran

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President Trump's use of Twitter to threaten Iran brought renewed calls for CEO Jack Dorsey to take action to limit the president's use of the platform. However, Twitter maintains none of the president's messages violate the company's policies.

The bigger picture: Twitter has said that, in general, it will leave political leaders' tweets up even if they violate the terms of service that apply to other users. Last year it announced a policy that would see the company append a warning to tweets deemed to violate its rules. But, it has yet to apply that policy to Trump or anyone else.

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The dangerous side of limiting Twitter replies

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Twitter's plan to allow users to control who can reply to their posts, announced Wednesday, is largely welcome news for those who are routinely harassed on the service — including many people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks and other groups often targeted by online mobs.

Why it matters: It could create an even riper environment for misinformation — especially when combined with Twitter's policy of allowing elected officials' tweets to stand, even when they violate the rules that apply to other users.

Go deeperArrowJan 9, 2020