2020-11-01 update: Jack Dorsey has confirmed that twitter is a “communication channel”, in line with his earlier representation that twitter is like a utility. In other words, it is a common carrier, legally obligated to provide services to everybody without discriminating against persons or content. In the same statement, replying to Senator Ted Cruz, Jack lied, stating that Twitter cannot influence elections!
Notice that twitter – the communications service, and Twitter Inc. ($TWTR) – the corporation that owns and operates it are different entities. $TWTR can be removed from operating twitter (now a part of our critical national infrastructure) by an executive order. $TWTR can decide to sell twitter, or can be forced to sell it in bankruptcy, when it becomes clear that its liability for damages exceeds its assets.
Jack Dorsey, a tweet from April 2009
Twitter succeeds when it’s not talked about so much, blurs into the background, & is used as a utility. Like electricity.
Can an electrical company cut off electricity to a customer whose views it does not share? No, it cannot. $TWTR has marketed twitter as a telecommunication utility, so it should be treated as one. This is called common carrier in telecommunication. Before 2016, it even acted like one. More quotes (emphasis is mine everywhere):
Free expression is part of our company DNA. We are the platform that lets users see what’s happening and to see all sides.
One of my favorites is what happened a few months ago when there was a gas shortage in Atlanta. Some users figured out that they would Twitter when they found gas — where it was, and how much it cost — and then appended the keyword “#atlgas” which let other people search for that and find gas themselves. And this trend of people using this communication network to help each other out goes far beyond the original idea of just keeping up with family and friends.
Biz Stone [Twitter co-founder], 2009: I think of Twitter first as a communication network that has very social elements to it. … You’re trying to organize a quick meeting among friends at a bar at 6 tonight and it’s 5:30, so you send out a Twitter message to everyone saying, “I’m here, who’s with me?” That’s not blogging, that’s communication.
Twitter, Inc., the corporation, is a provider of twitter, the communication network. It is not a publisher or speaker. Twitter, Inc. should be held accountable for violating all federal and state laws, governing electronic communications and their providers.
Jack Dorsey’s tweets are marketing messages and, possibly, binding promises of Twitter to its customers. Here are some examples:
twitter was so open early on that many saw its potential to be a decentralized internet standard, like SMTP …
Many saw it this way because Twitter marketed twitter this way, as an open communication protocol network. This is an acknowledgement of past marketing.
Twitter is here to serve the entire public conversation …
This is our primary job: “To be clear, Twitter is a useful and important platform. It’s a good aggregator for breaking news. I still check my feed to see breaking news developments, and I will continue to.”
We acknowledge the growing concern people have of the power held by companies like Twitter. We believe it’s dangerous to ask Twitter to regulate opinions or be the arbiter of truth. We’d rather be judged by the impartiality of outcomes …
Twitter stands for freedom of expression, speaking truth to power, and empowering dialogue.
Now it sounds like a joke, but when it was uttered it became a binding promise.
I treasure Twitter’s ability to show every point of view instantly. Only way to find the common ground beneath us all.
First published on June 1. Expanded on June 8, June 17, and November 1-2.