Saturday 21 April 2018

Twitter will win war against trolls and 'endure forever', CEO Jack Dorsey tells Dublin audience

Singer Bressie and Harry McCann join Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, in Dublin this morning. Pic: Adrian Weckler
Singer Bressie and Harry McCann join Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, in Dublin this morning. Pic: Adrian Weckler
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey has told a Dublin audience that Twitter will “endure forever” despite being no closer to making a profit after 11 years.

Speaking at the company’s Dublin office this morning, Mr Dorsey also said that paid subscriptions to the service are “a germ of an idea” that could be introduced for professional users such as journalists.

And Mr Dorsey claimed that Twitter is winning its war against trolls with recently introduced features and that the service’s previous mechanisms weren’t “fair” on harassment victims.

“Profitability is a choice,” he said. “It’s a choice between investment or driving profit. We believe that there’s a massive opportunity in continuing to grow and invest in the business. I think Twitter is a company that endures forever. It will last because it’s fundamental. So we’re going to take the time necessary to do the right things for the people using the product and also for our advertisers. And the revenue will follow.”

Despite its global utility as a news-breaking service, Twitter has struggled to match its commercial fortunes with its high profile. Its most recent financial statement showed continuing losses with little sign of a commercial pickup.

The company is now considering the introduction of a paid subscription service that could give users more analytics feedback on how their tweets are performing.

Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, in Dublin this morning. Pic: Adrian Weckler
Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, in Dublin this morning. Pic: Adrian Weckler

“I think looking at subscriptions is interesting,” said Mr Dorsey. “I think there’s some value there, especially for journalists and in providing more economic incentive. It’s just a germ of an idea, nothing serious yet. But we should always have an open mind to compliment our advertising business.”

Asked about how long Twitter can operate as a loss making business, Mr Dorsey said that the company would continue its direction.

“To me it’s not a matter of time,” he said. “It’s a matter of focus in making sure that we have a good understanding of what matters most. Our advertising business is amazing. It’s one of the biggest at scale out there. We’re really proud of it. We have a phenomenal business. There haven’t been a lot that have managed to do what we did, which is turn the growth around.”

Read more: Adrian Weckler: Dublin becoming tech giants' company town

Mr Dorsey said that the company is making solid progress in discouraging trolls and abusers on Twitter.

“In the past, we were pretty mechanical cross the board, especially around abuse,” he said. “We put the burden on the victim. We made them do a bunch of work to get rid of the harassment which just wasn’t fair. Now we’re using technology to take some of that burden away. And we’re recognising more and more of the harassing conduct faster and hiding it. We’ve got a lot better at applying machine learning to our problems. So trolls are now starting to say that Twitter’s kind of boring now because this is so hard. So I’m going to go somewhere else. This isn’t fun anymore. So that’s what we want.

“We’re never going to be done. People are going to find new ways of harassing people, as they do in the real world. So our communication channel is no different from how people discover new ways to use a phone to harass people.”

Stung by the relentless criticism of the way abuse was escalating on Twitter Mr Dorsey said that the company has been prioritising it since January.

“I think we were unfairly amplifying [harassment] just by the very nature of our service,” he said. “So took a very different approach at the beginning of the year. We made it the company’s first priority. And by that we said ‘drop whatever else you’re doing and work on this until it’s fixed’. What that meant was that we needed to ship something new, an update, every single day. And the team really rose to the occasion. We’ve made a ton of progress.”

He said that Twitter is still considering whether or not to introduce an ‘edit’ button for people to change the content of their own tweets.

“The biggest seed of it is that people want to be able to correct spelling mistakes,” said. “So they want a small window to correct spelling mistakes. But even there, others say ‘no, tweet again to say you made a mistake’. So everyone has a different opinion on it. We’re just weighing everything and deciding what matters most.”

The Dublin stop is only the second time that Mr Dorsey has been to Ireland and is the first time he has visited Twitter’s modern office here. Earlier this week, Mr Dorsey launched Square, the payment company he runs in addition to being chief executive of Twitter, in the UK.

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