Jack Dorsey the former CEO of Twitter has had a rough couple of years. It all started in December 2019 when Jack tweeted that he was creating a new project to explore decentralized architecture for Twitter. The project was called Bluesky, and it was intended to remove the requirement that people share their personal information with Twitter to use it.
Jack explained that social media services like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube were essentially recommendation algorithms that tracked your behaviour and preferences to deliver content you might like. He admitted that recommendation algorithms don’t actually need personal information to do their job, all they need is your engagement. Simply use Twitter enough and algorithms will determine what you like and then feed you similar content.
With great recommendations come great responsibility
Jack felt that Twitter could no longer accept the responsibility to protect and secure the personal information of its users in the face of massive fines, moderation requirements and restrictive regulations such as GDPR. After all, it’s expensive to protect the personal data of more than 100 million users.
Since then, Jack stepped down as Twitter CEO, Elon Musk has become the biggest ‘activist’ shareholder and has promised groundbreaking reforms. However, Bluesky seems to be forgotten.
It’s easy to think that Jack was being disingenuous in 2019 and had no intention of decentralizing or reforming Twitter, but that might be a bit too harsh. Jack Dorsey has always been the most ‘hippie’ of all the Silicon Valley Tech Bros – an entrepreneur with a conscience. He truly wanted to deliver the free speech platform that Twitter promised, but the behaviour of the rest of the Bros did not sit well with him.
USA Today recently reported that Jack Dorsey regrets his role in ‘centralizing the internet’. He said that “centralizing discovery and identity into corporations” has “really damaged the internet.” The “days of usenet, irc, the web…even email (w PGP)…were amazing. I realize I’m partially to blame, and regret it.”
Walk the Talk
Kudos to Jack Dorsey for admitting his role in the centralization of user identity and the damage done to society, but it’s a little too late. Jack is no longer the CEO of Twitter, so unless he starts a new, socially-conscious media platform, his forward-thinking is aspirational at best. He’s one of the most experienced Big Tech entrepreneurs and one of the very few who see that the future of the Internet must be decentralized. Furthermore, Jack has intimate knowledge of how Silicon Valley has taken advantage of centralization to control the public narrative. If he is serious about his regret, he will step up and propose a radical solution.
Old problems require new solutions
Decentralization of user identity is the key to a healthy future for the Internet and Jack knows it. Separating church and state has always been a central tenet of democracy and the Internet is no different. If we all had our own personal connection to digital services, our relationships would be more genuine because they would be completely voluntary and totally under our control.