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What’s that Twitter Imp Up to?

From the Archives (January 2021)

Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

Is Jack Dorsey looking for a Bitcoin (libertarian) Internet model?

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t much bugged by Twitter deplatforming President Trump. I didn’t think it was cool, and it bothered me that a company displays such brazen arrogance, but I agree with the ACLU’s Ira Glasser, who said a President always has plenty of speaking outlets.

I was uber-bugged — outraged, in fact — when Amazon killed Parler’s access to the Internet altogether and, if antitrust laws mean anything, Amazon should be facing severe scrutiny in this regard.

But Twitter? I was just annoyed and, of course, I’ve long been frustrated by Twitter’s ongoing and disingenuous agenda: “We’re just neutral content hosts. We don’t favor either side, but we do enforce a certain narrative because that narrative is true, so we block other narratives because they’re false.” (Nevermind that in the philosophical field of “narratives,” the premise is that none of them are true.)

But overall? I wasn’t outraged by Twitter’s decision.

What We Know about Dorsey

Jack Dorsey is to blame, of course, but let’s acknowledge a few things about Dorsey:

1. He founded Twitter 14 years ago. It now has 4,600 employees and 321 million users. That’s shocking growth. Dorsey can’t entirely control that company as a practical matter, and he can’t control it as a legal matter since he’s a minority stockholder.

2. He is presumably surrounded by workers and advisers with a liberal slant.

3. He himself was raised Catholic and his uncle is a priest.

4. He supported Tulsi Gabbard (my favorite candidate) in 2020.

5. He also supported Andrew Yang (my second favorite candidate, but far behind Tulsi because of his troublesome trademark (the universal income)). Based on Wikipedia, those are the only two he supported in the primaries.

6. He is a huge Bitcoin fan.

I think it all points to a guy who is a libertarian who leans left, not an unhinged SJW leftist.

Sure, I could be wrong, but let’s look at that series of Tweets he sent out a few days ago that rankled so many people. Here’s a link to the string.

In it, he says he felt it was necessary to ban Trump because of real public danger. I tend to disagree with him, but I don’t think it’s right to call him a “liar.” If Twitter hadn’t been so dishonest in its censorship for the past few years, I think most of us would’ve accepted his explanation at face value (that was an ugly display at the Capitol building).

But after defending their decision, Dorsey tweeted something very interesting: He said that he has long maintained that, if people don’t like Twitter’s rules, they could go elsewhere, but that Amazon’s decision to kill Parler “challenged” this concept.

Let that sink in.

If we accept his words at face value, it means Dorsey is troubled by Amazon’s decision and, in fact, might understand that it completely turns his position on its head.

If he is, as I suspect, a closet libertarian with a vestige of Catholic graces, he wants private companies to be able to do what they want but, in fairness, thinks other companies should be able to do what they want.

It’s a variation of the silver rule: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” Dorsey doesn’t want Twitter to be told what content to allow, and he doesn’t want other companies to be told what to allow.

But that’s exactly what happened to Parler.

And I think maybe, just maybe, Dorsey is a bit rattled by it.

He knows it’s unjust, and he knows how much he would’ve been screwed if his host provider did the same to him just two years into Twitter’s existence.

He also doesn’t like Twitter’s decision to ban Trump and thinks the mere fact that it felt it needed to points to a bad social media environment. In an earlier Tweet, he wrote, “I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.”

Adding Up the Pieces

So put all this together.

He doesn’t think it’s good that Twitter banned Trump, but more importantly, he doesn’t think it’s good that the public conversation is so unhealthy.

Well, the public conversation currently means, “What Twitter likes” since there can be no other conversations (or a bully like Amazon will kick you off the Internet).

I don’t think Dorsey likes it. I might be wrong, but I suspect Dorsey is honestly disturbed by the absolute power Twitter now holds in the public conversation, and he doesn’t think it’s good for Twitter (how many people now hate the company?) or for free discourse (which, if he has strong libertarian leanings, he would want to support).

Add Bitcoin to the Equation

Now shift back to that thing that Dorsey really likes: Bitcoin.

He loves its decentralized format.

And he thinks that’s how the Internet should operate: decentralized.

Once information flows however users want it to flow, Facebook and Twitter won’t have their hegemony. They can set whatever policies they want and no one would care, because information will continue to flow, just like Bitcoin is passed among whoever wants to accept and pay in Bitcoin.

No one is forced to use Bitcoin, but everyone can.

Which is what Dorsey, I’m guessing, wants the Internet to be.

Twitter is a Leftist Internet organization and Dorsey wants it to remain that way.

But that doesn’t mean he wants it to be the only Internet organization.

Sure, if he could maintain that monopoly, he would have a financial incentive to do so, but let’s face it, the next 24 months notwithstanding, no monopoly stands for long. He knows the current Twitter monopoly will be short-lived no matter what.

So he might as well start facilitating a better system, which I think he started to do with that chain of Tweets.

I might be wrong. This is speculation.

But it’s corroborated by Dorsey’s recent reference to a 2019 initiative launched by Twitter that is still ongoing:

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.

“Open.” “Decentralized.” “Social media.”

It sounds like Bitcoin social media.

I’m not applauding Dorsey at this point, but it all gives me a glimmer of hope.