Kara Swisher interview of Jack Dorsey

This is a transcript of the Kara Swisher / Jack Dorsey interview from 2/12/2019, made by parsing the original Tweets because I wanted to be able to read this linearly. There's a "moment" that tries to track this, but since it doesn't distinguish between sub-threads in any way, you can't tell the difference between end of a thread and a normal reply. This linearization of the interview marks each thread break with a page break and provides some context from upthread where relevant (in grey text).

Kara: Here in my sweatiest @soulcycle outfit for my Twitterview with @jack with @Laur_Katz at the ready @voxmediainc HQ. Also @cheezit acquired. #karajack

Kara: Oh hai @jack. Let’s set me set the table. First, I am uninterested in beard amulets or weird food Mark Zuckerberg served you (though WTF with both for my personal self). Second, I would appreciate really specific answers.

Jack: Got you. Here’s my setup. I work from home Tuesdays. In my kitchen. Tweetdeck. No one here with me, and no one connected to my tweetdeck. Just me focused on your questions!

Kara: Great, let's go

Jack: Ready


Kara: As @ashleyfeinberg wrote: “press him for a clear, unambiguous example of nearly anything, and Dorsey shuts down.” That is not unfair characterization IMHO. Third, I will thread in questions from audience, but to keep this non chaotic, let’s stay in one reply thread.

Jack: Deal


Kara: To be clear with audience, there is not a new event product, a glass house, if you will, where people can see us but not comment. I will ask questions and then respond to @jack answers. So it could be CHAOS.

Jack: To be clear, we’re interested in an experience like this. Nothing built yet. This gives us a sense of what it would be like, and what we’d need to focus on. If there’s something here at all!

Kara: Well an event product WOULD BE NICE. See my why aren't you moving faster trope.


Kara: Overall here is my mood and I think a lot of people when it comes to fixing what is broke about social media and tech: Why aren’t you moving faster? Why aren’t you moving faster? Why aren’t you moving faster?

Jack: A question we ask ourselves all the time. In the past I think we were trying to do too much. We’re better at prioritizing by impact now. Believe the #1 thing we should focus on is someone’s physical safety first. That one statement leads to a lot of ramifications.

Kara: It seems twitter has been stuck in a stagnant phase of considering/thinking about the health of the conversation, which plays into safety, for about 18-24 months. How have you made actual progress? Can you point me to it SPECIFICALLY?


Kara: You know my jam these days is tech responsibility. What grade do you gave Silicon Valley? Yourself?

Jack: Myself? C. We’ve made progress, but it has been scattered and not felt enough. Changing the experience hasn’t been meaningful enough. And we’ve put most of the burden on the victims of abuse (that’s a huge fail).

Kara: Well that is like telling me I am sick and am responsible for fixing it. YOU made the product, YOU run the platform. Saying it is a huge fail is a cop out to many. It is to me

Jack: Putting the burden on victims? Yes. It’s recognizing that we have to be proactive in enforcement and promotion of healthy conversation. This is our first priority in #health. We have to change a lot of the fundamentals of product to fix.

Kara: please be specific. I see a lot of beard-stroking on this (no insult to your Lincoln jam, but it works). WHAT are you changing? SPECIFICALLY.

Jack: First and foremost we’re looking at ways to proactively enforce and promote health. So that reporting/blocking is a last resort. Problem we’re trying to solve is taking that work away.

Kara: Ok name three initiatives.


Jack: Myself? C. We’ve made progress, but it has been scattered and not felt enough. Changing the experience hasn’t been meaningful enough. And we’ve put most of the burden on the victims of abuse (that’s a huge fail).

Kara: Also my son gets a C in coding and that is NO tragedy. You getting one matters a lot.

Jack: Agree it matters a lot. And it’s the most important thing we need to address and fix. I’m stating that it’s a fail of ours to put the majority of burden on victims. That’s how the service works today.

Kara: Ok but I really want to drill down on HOW. How much downside are you willing to tolerate to balance the good that Twitter can provide? Be specific

Jack: This is exactly the balance we have to think deeply about. But in doing so, we have to look at how the product works. And where abuse happens the most: replies, mentions, search, and trends. Those are the shared spaces people take advantage of

Kara: Well, WHERE does abuse happen most

Jack: Within the service? Likely within replies. That’s why we’ve been more aggressive about proactively downranking behind interstitials, for example.

Kara: Why not just be more stringent on kicking off offenders? It seems like you tolerate a lot. If Twitter ran my house, my kids would be eating ramen, playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and wearing filthy socks

Jack: We action all we can against our policies. Most of our system today works reactively to someone reporting it. If they don’t report, we don’t see it. Doesn’t scale. Hence the need to focus on proactive

Kara: But why did you NOT see it? It seems pretty basic to run your platform with some semblance of paying mind to what people are doing on it? Can you give me some insight into why that was not done?

Jack: I think we tried to do too much in the past, and that leads to diluted answers and nothing impactful. There’s a lot we need to address globally. We have to prioritize our resources according to impact. Otherwise we won’t make much progress.

Kara: Got it. But do you think the fact that you all could not conceive of what it is to feel unsafe (women, POC, LGBTQ, other marginalized people) could be one of the issues? (new topic soon)

Jack: I think it’s fair and real. No question. Our org has to be reflective of the people we’re trying to serve. One of the reason we established the Trust and Safety council years ago, to get feedback and check ourselves.

Kara: Yes but i want THREE concrete examples.


Jack: First and foremost we’re looking at ways to proactively enforce and promote health. So that reporting/blocking is a last resort. Problem we’re trying to solve is taking that work away.

Kara: Or maybe, tell me what you think the illness is you are treating? I think you cannot solve a disease without knowing that. Or did you create the virus?

Jack: Good question. This is why we’re focused on understanding what conversational health means. We see a ton of threats to health in digital conversation. We’re focuse first on off-platform ramifications (physical safety). That clarifies priorities of policy and enforcement.

Kara: I am still confused. What the heck is "off-platform ramifications"? You are not going to have a police force, right? Are you 911?

Jack: No, not a police force. I mean we have to consider first and foremost what online activity does to impact physical safety, as a way to prioritize our efforts. I don’t think companies like ours have admitted or focused on that enough.

Kara: So you do see the link between what you do and real life danger to people? Can you say that explicitly? I could not be @finkd to even address the fact that he made something that resulted in real tragedy.

Jack: I see the link, and that’s why we need to put physical safety above all else. That’s what we’re figuring out how to do now. We don’t have all the answers just yet. But that’s the focus. I think it clarifies a lot of the work we need to do. Not all of it of course.

Kara: I grade you all an F on this and that's being kind. I'm not trying to be a jackass, but it's been a very slow roll by all of you in tech to pay attention to this. Why do you think that is? I think it is because many of the people who made Twitter never ever felt unsafe.

Jack: Likely a reason. I’m certain lack of diversity didn’t help with empathy of what people experience on Twitter every day, especially women.

Kara: And so to end this topic, I will try again. Please give me three concrete things you have done to fix this. SPECIFIC.

Jack: 1. We have evolved our polices. 2. We have prioritized proactive enforcement to remove burden from victims 3. We have given more control in product (like mute of accounts without profile pics or associated phone/emails) 4. Much more aggressive on coordinated behavior/gaming

Kara: 1. WHICH? 2. HOW? 3. OK, MUTE BUT THAT WAS A WHILE AGO 4. WHAT MORE? I think people are dying for specifics.

Jack: 1. Misgendering policy as example. 2. Using ML to downrank bad actors behind interstitials 3. Not too long ago, but most of our work going forward will have to be product features. 4. Not sure the question. We put an entire model in place to minimize gaming of system.

Kara: thx. I meant even more specifics on 4. But see the Twitter purge one.

Jack: Just resonded to that. Don’t see the twitter purge one

Kara: I wanted to get off thread with Mark added! Like he needs more of me.

Jack: Does he check this much?

Kara: No, he is busy fixing Facebook. NOT! (he makes you look good)

Kara: I am going to start a NEW thread to make it easy for people to follow (@waltmossberg just texted me that it is a "chaotic hellpit"). Stay in that one. OK?

Jack: Ok. Definitely not easy to follow the conversation. Exactly why we are doing this. Fixing stuff like this will help I believe.

Kara: Yeah, it's Chinatown, Jake.


Jack: First and foremost we’re looking at ways to proactively enforce and promote health. So that reporting/blocking is a last resort. Problem we’re trying to solve is taking that work away.

Jack: Second, we’re constantly evolving our policies to address the issues we see today. We’re rooting them in fundamental human rights (UN) and putting physical safety as our top priority. Privacy next.

Kara: When you say physical safety, I am confused. What do you mean specifically? You are not a police force. In fact, social media companies have built cities without police, fire departments, garbage pickup or street signs. IMHO What do you think of that metaphor?

Jack: I mean off platform, offline ramifications. What people do offline with what they see online. Doxxing is a good example which threatens physical safety. So does coordinate harassment campaigns.

Kara: So how do you stop THAT? I mean regular police forces cannot stop that. It seems your job is not to let it get that far in the first place.

Jack: Exactly. What can we do within the product and policy to lower probability. Again, don’t think we or others have worked against that enough.


Kara: Ok, new one @jack

What do you think about twitter breaks and purges. Why do you think that is? I can’t say I’ve heard many people say they feel “good” after not being on twitter for a while: https://twitter.com/TaylorLorenz/status/1095039347596898305

Jack: Feels terrible. I want people to walk away from Twitter feeling like they learned something and feeling empowered to some degree. It depresses me when that’s not the general vibe, and inspires me to figure it out. That’s my desire

Kara: But why do they feel that way? You made it.

Jack: We made something with one intent. The world showed us how it wanted to use it. A lot has been great. A lot has been unexpected. A lot has been negative. We weren’t fast enough to observe, learn, and improve


Kara: Ok, new one @jack

Kara: In that vein, how does it affect YOU?

Jack: I also don’t feel good about how Twitter tends to incentivize outrage, fast takes, short term thinking, echo chambers, and fragmented conversation and consideration. Are they fixable? I believe we can do a lot to address. And likely have to change more fundamentals to do so.

Kara: But you invented it. You can control it. Slowness is not really a good excuse.

Jack: It’s the reality. We tried to do too much at once and were not focused on what matters most. That contributes to slowness. As does our technology stack and how quickly we can ship things. That’s improved a lot recently


Kara: Ok trying AGAIN @jack in another new thread! This one about @realDonaldTrump:

We know a lot more about what Donald Trump thinks because of Twitter, and we all have mixed feelings about that.

Kara: Have you ever considered suspending Donald Trump? His tweets are somewhat protected because he’s a public figure, but would he have been suspended in the past if he were a “regular” user?

Jack: We hold all accounts to the same terms of service. The most controversial aspect of our TOS is the newsworthy/public interest clause, the “protection” you mention. That doesn’t extend to all public figures by default, but does speak to global leaders and seeing how they think.

Kara: That seems questionable to a lot of people. Let me try it a different way: What historic newsworthy figure would you ban? Is someone bad enough to ban. Be specific. A name.

Jack: We have to enforce based on our policy and what people do on our service. And evolve it with the current times. No way I can answer that based on people. Has to be focused on patterns of how people use the technology.

Kara: Not one name? Ok, but it is a copout imho. I have a long list.

Jack: I think it’s more durable to focus on use cases because that allows us to act broader. Likely that these aren’t isolated cases but things that spread

Kara: it would be really great to get specific examples as a lot of what you are doing appears incomprehensible to many.


Kara: Ok trying AGAIN @jack in another new thread! This one about @realDonaldTrump:

Kara: And will Twitter’s business/engagement suffer when @realDonaldTrump is no longer President?

Jack: I don’t believe our service or business is dependent on any one account or person. I will say the number of politics conversations has significantly increased because of it, but that’s just one experience on Twitter. There are multiple Twitters, all based on who you follow.

Kara: Ok new question (answer the newsworthy historical figure you MIGHT ban pls): Single biggest improvement at Twitter since 2016 that signals you’re ready for the 2020 elections?

Jack: Our work against automations and coordinated campaigns. Partnering with government agencies to improve communication around threats

Kara: Can you give a more detailed example of that that worked?

Jack: We shared a retro on 2018 within this country, and tested a lot with the Mexican elections too. Indian elections coming up. In mid-terms we were able to monitor efforts to disrupt both online and offline and able to stop those actions on Twitter.


Kara: Ok new question (answer the newsworthy historical figure you MIGHT ban pls): Single biggest improvement at Twitter since 2016 that signals you’re ready for the 2020 elections?

Kara: What confidence should we have that Russia or other state-sponsored actors won’t be able to wreak havoc on next year’s elections?

Jack: We should expect a lot more coordination between governments and platforms to address. That would give me confidence. And have some skepticism too. That’s healthy. The more we can do this work in public and share what we find, the better

Kara: I still am dying for specifics here. [meme image: Give me some specifics. I love specifics, the specifics were the best part!]


Jack: I think it’s more durable to focus on use cases because that allows us to act broader. Likely that these aren’t isolated cases but things that spread

Kara: going to shift to biz questions since it is not a lot of time and this system is CHAOTIC (as I thought it would be): What about the move to DAU instead of MAU. Why the move? And how are we to interpret the much smaller numbers?

Jack: We want to be valuable to people daily. Not monthly. It’s a higher bar for ourselves. Sure, it looks like a smaller absolute number, but the folks we have using Twitter are some of the most influential in the world. They drive conversation. We belevie we can best grow this.

Kara: Ok, then WHO is the most exciting influential on Twitter right now? BE SPECIFIC

Jack: To me personally? I like how @elonmusk uses Twitter. He’s focused on solving existential problems and sharing his thinking openly. I respect that a lot, and all the ups and downs that come with it

Kara: What about @AOC

Jack: Totally. She’s mastering the medium

Kara: She is well beyond mastering it. She speaks fluent Twitter.

Jack: True

Kara: Also are you ever going to hire someone to effectively be your number 2?

Jack: I think it’s better to spread that responsibility across multiple people. It creates less dependencies and the company gets more options around future leadership


Kara: going to shift to biz questions since it is not a lot of time and this system is CHAOTIC (as I thought it would be): What about the move to DAU instead of MAU. Why the move? And how are we to interpret the much smaller numbers?

Kara: Also: How close were you to selling Twitter in 2016? What happened?

What about giving the company to a public trust per your NYT discussion.

Jack: We ultimately decided we were better off independent. And I’m happy we did. We’ve made a lot of progress since that point. And we got a lot more focused. Definitely love the idea of opening more to 3rd parties. Not sure what that looks like yet. Twitter is close to a protocol.

Kara: Chop chop on the other answers! I have more questions! If you want to use this method, quicker!

Jack: I’m moving as fast as I can Kara

Kara: Clip clop!


Kara: going to shift to biz questions since it is not a lot of time and this system is CHAOTIC (as I thought it would be): What about the move to DAU instead of MAU. Why the move? And how are we to interpret the much smaller numbers?

Kara: also: Is twitter still considering a subscription service? Like “Twitter Premium” or something?

Jack: Always going to experiment with new models. Periscope has super hearts, which allows us to learn about direct contribution. We’d need to figure out the value exchange on subscription. Has to be really high for us to charge directly


Jack: Totally. She’s mastering the medium

Kara: Ok, last ones are about you and we need to go long because your system here it confusing says the people of Twitter:

  1. What has been Twitter’s biggest missed opportunity since you came back as CEO?

Jack: Focus on conversation earlier. We took too long to get there. Too distracted.

Kara: By what? What is the #1 thing that distracted you and others and made this obvious mess via social media?

Jack: Tried to do too much at once. Wasn’t focused on what our one core strength was: conversation. That lead to really diluted strategy and approach. And a ton of reactiveness.

Kara: Speaking of that (CONVERSATION), let's do one with sounds soon, like this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiJkANps0Qw


Kara: She is well beyond mastering it. She speaks fluent Twitter.

Jack: True

Kara: Why are you still saying you’re the CEO of two publicly traded companies? What’s the point in insisting you can do two jobs that both require maximum effort at the same time?

Jack: I’m focused on building leadership in both. Not my desire or ambition to be CEO of multiple companies just for the sake of that. I’m doing everything I can to help both. Effort doesn’t come down to one person. It’s a team


Kara: LAST Q: For the love of God, please do Recode Decode podcast with me soon, because analog talking seems to be a better way of asking questions and giving answers. I think Twitter agrees and this has shown how hard this thread is to do. That said, thx for trying. Really.

Jack: This thread was hard. But we got to learn a ton to fix it. Need to make this feel a lot more cohesive and easier to follow. Was extremely challenging. Thank you for trying it with me. Know it wasn’t easy. Will consider different formats!

Kara: Make a glass house for events and people can watch and not throw stones. Pro tip: Twitter convos are wack

Jack: Yep. And they don’t have to be wack. Need to figure this out. This whole experience is a problem statement for what we need to fix


Jack: This thread was hard. But we got to learn a ton to fix it. Need to make this feel a lot more cohesive and easier to follow. Was extremely challenging. Thank you for trying it with me. Know it wasn’t easy. Will consider different formats!

Kara: My kid is hungry and says that you should do a real interview with me even if I am mean. Just saying.

Jack: I don’t think you’re mean. Always good to experiment.

Kara: Neither does my kid. He just wants to go get dinner

Jack: Go eat! Thanks, Kara

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