With the recent rollout of Twitter’s Orwellian “Trust & Safety Council”, some have started to question whether Twitter’s main goal at this point is to maximize profit.
Looking at the reactions of the userbase and media critics to recent changes, and then juxtaposing them with the company’s stock price, it’s clear that Twitter hasn’t been making good business decisions lately. My view is that the company is now more interested in political than commercial goals, and is gearing up to sway the elections.
The only question is whether these decisions were made with intentional neglect of Twitter’s duty to maximize profits for its shareholders. If this were the case, and Twitter really has shifted away from the priority to make money, this could leave the company open to lawsuits from investors.
Red flags shot up right away when the list of the 40 organizations included in Twitter’s Trust & Safety council were released. One name that comes up again and again in relation to these groups is the nation’s leading financier of left-wing causes: the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (MacArthur).
Let’s take a look at just one of the groups funded by MacArthur: the frighteningly-named “Dangerous Speech” Project. Their mission statement is exactly what you’d expect.
We study dangerous speech and ways to counteract it.
Inflammatory public speech rises steadily before outbreaks of mass violence, suggesting that it is a precursor of, or even a prerequisite for violence. In many cases, a few influential figures turn their own people against another group, using speech that has a special capacity to inspire violence: Dangerous Speech. Found in myriad languages, cultures, and religions, Dangerous Speech is uncannily similar across them. For example, it often refers to people as insects, vermin, aliens, threats, or pollution.
Yes, the Dangerous Speech Project makes it their mission statement to stop people from belittling other people. They literally want a world-wide safe-space policy implemented. For example, stopping people from using the term “illegal aliens” is just one of their bizarre goals. It’s no surprise that MacArthur is the only donor that’s specifically thanked for their financial support at the footer of every page on the language-averse 503(c)3’s website.
Another organization on Twitter’s new council is the Center for Democracy and Technology. According to records from 2014, they received $400,000 from MacArthur.
Even Feminist Frequency is linked to MacArthur, through Jonathan McIntosh — the channel’s former co-writer, speaker, and producer. McIntosh was hired to be MacArthur’s “media curator” for multiple speaking events in the past. Danah Boyd even invited Jonathan to speak on a panel at MacArthur’s 2011 annual digital learning conference. Twitter’s head of safety — Del Harvey — was also a speaker at the 2011 MacArthur conference.
Here’s another, shocking, fact. Marjorie Scardino, the Chairman of the MacArthur Foundation is on Twitter’s Board of Directors, and has been since 2013 — which was coincidentally around the time that Twitter started shifting away from its pro-free-speech position.
Her appointment to Twitter’s board was controversial at the time, and looking back at the pattern of tactics from the left over the past year. She joined the board in December 2013, after a shaming campaign from The New York Times and feminist authors, who claimed that Twitter didn’t have enough diversity on it’s board — a now-familiar tactic by the regressive left to gain positions of power in institutions.
But again, the real question here is whether Twitter is intentionally neglecting its duty to maximize profits. Quotes from Marjorie Scardino — the MacArthur chairman and board member of Twitter — suggest that making money is not her priority.
On July 3rd, 2015, Scardino gave a speech to an elite boarding and day school in the UK. At the time of the speech, she had been on Twitter’s board of directors for more than a year and a half. She told the students:
You need to start thinking right now what the world of 2050 will look like, and figuring out how you can be the one to make it that way. Most of you know the center of tech development has been, and probably still is, Silicon Valley in California. I used to go there are as a publisher, when I was trying to change Pearson’s way of doing things, and way of looking at how to educate. Now I go there more because I’m on the board of one of the companies, and I see the place very, very differently…
I didn’t go to business school, and for the longest time I couldn’t really figure out accounting — until I finally had to figure out accounting, so I could figure out how much money I was losing. I grew to really love the elegance of accounting, but I still don’t think business is about making money. I think it’s about moving civilization along, in all the things that you do with your products and services.
Notice how she says she still doesn’t think business is about making money, even after being a Silicon Valley insider. This means that she stands by her previous statements about the purpose of a business that she made when she was the CEO of Pearson — the world’s largest publisher known for its controversial role in the privatization of American education — so controversial that figures on both the right and the left agree that it’s a terrible idea.
I think in common with most of the people who work in this company, and companies like it, think that you need to have a purpose. You need to have some direction in which you’re trying to put pressure on society to make it better… Education and journalism are two things that I really believe have an opportunity to change the world. So I get to work in those things, that’s why I do it — I get paid really well for doing it, and I work pretty hard to do it, but I do it for that purpose. And I think most people work for a calling, and not a job.
Typical CEO-speak about “changing the world”? Or an actual description of her political mission? Given that she has spent her career focusing on education & the media, and now runs a left-wing foundation, the latter seems more likely. And in her own words, her beliefs about business priorities haven’t changed since being on Twitter’s board of directors.
But that’s not the most troubling revelation. What should really concern Twitter users is that as early as 2010, Scardino expressed serious concerns with the idea of an open internet, where citizens choose their own networks and their own sources of information. The quote is long, but worth reading in full:
Newspapers have for the life of this republic, and before, played a pretty important part in educating us as citizens and helping us to do that job. And so I want to talk a little bit about, and think a little bit about the impact of the digital world that we’re living in, and beginning to understand, on citizenship, and how newspapers feed into that.
There’s been … a pretty feverish amount [said] over the last couple of years about the death of the newspaper, and I have to say that I think that obituary, though possibly a little premature is a pretty solid prediction.
I really do think it’s true, if you are referring to that ‘thing on paper’, that’s folded and presented to you every morning without fail, I do think that in most cases those types of things are fading. But, I think if you mean the function of a newspaper — I think if you mean the idea of a newspaper — and you think that’s becoming obsolete, I can’t agree. I do think that if you try not to call it a newspaper — if for instance you call it ‘a report of everything that’s happened in the world and what it means to you today’, then that sounds pretty critical, I think — It’s just that the newspaper has changed form.
It used to be that we said freedom of the press belonged only to those who own one. Now, everybody owns a printing press. Now a large portion of the world has access to the ability to — if they have a computer hooked to a network — create their own newspaper — create their own report of what happened in the world that’s meaningful to them. They can blog it, they can tweet it, you can put up your views for all of your thousand best friends on Facebook, you can make videos and podcast them or put them on YouTube, you can do broadcast-emails with curated links — you can do all of that. There is an astonishing number of ways you can create your own newspaper now, so I don’t think I have to tell you about all that.
If by chance, some of you have already chosen that path for your news — many, many people have — you did this, I believe, because you trust your circle of friends, you trust your network, you trust your informal network and your particular set of sources. So your friends, indeed — and your acquaintances — because you have experienced their level of expertise — you can take a bead on what they know, and what they don’t know. You trust some bloggers that you’ve read for a while, because you know they aren’t — or some may want to know that they are — raving loons, but you know who you’ve decided to follow and who you’ve decided to trust.
So I think — maybe in contrast to some of the people here — that networks and aggregations like that done by individuals can be effective. I think that they can give you a multi-dimensional view of the world that you might not get. I think that they are arguably much better than just having one source, even if it’s the New York Times — even if it’s the Financial Times….
There are however, I think, a couple of problems if we believe that sort of news gathering is going to be able to sustain democracy — is going to be able to help us construct our national story as you would like it to — is going to be able to bring us information that we can trust — and some of those have been alluded to by some other people, but first, news in that form where there are a lot of voices with inconsistent protocols that are reporting to you — they leave all the refining and all the authentication to you. They cause you to have to work pretty hard to figure out which one of them to trust — either to have a longitudinal experience with some of those sources, or to do a lot of digging. I think it’s a pretty good idea, I think it’s a pretty good exercise that citizens have to validate their own information, but the fact is most of us don’t have those skills, don’t have that kind of time, and don’t have the perspective to do that.
So, for instance, almost all of those reports, and all of the analysis that you gather, probably is — as President Bollinger said — pure opinion, not fact. Democracy is based on the idea that all opinions do weigh equally, but facts are the things that underpin opinions, and they are the things that convince us to approve of those opinions. So if you’re going to take those opinions, first of all you’ve got to confirm them, and you’ve got to confirm them often if they’re primary sources, and then you’ve got to do that activity that increasingly defines our lives: you’ve got to look for the patterns in that caleidoscope of information. The facts may be nothing really more than amusements if you can’t make them into some sort of a concept — if you can’t make them into some sort of context to help you solve your problem, or learn what you need to do.
Then there’s the publishing part, getting your conclusions out to others, because obviously networks demand to be fed — as well as the demand to be consumed. But that’s always been the pretty easy part — sometimes it was very costly — it still is a bit costly, but now getting it out to others is as the British would say, an ‘absolute doddle’ — very easy to do. So maybe that kind of newsgathering works, if you take seriously the job of confirming what you should trust and what you shouldn’t, and if you take take time to discern the patterns.
But there’s a higher hurdle to clear I think — and a much more complicated one — and that is: is the network that’s defining your news able to achieve the task that it needs to — is it able to do the job for you — and democracy — of scrutinizing the power structure, and the people that inhabit the power structure — can it really goad us into action — can it really help us bring reforms to our society and to our government — those reforms that have taken us along as a democracy for so, so many years. That is the thing I think that citizens have to be willing to do — they have to be free, and able, and willing, to start a movement that fundamentally changes the premises of the government.
She really thinks that as control of the media slips away from the elite, having people writing and distributing their own news might be a real threat to democracy. Apparently she doesn’t understand that this top-down approach to what media gets seen is the absolute opposite of democracy — but I’m not surprised the chairman of a foundation that funds the “Dangerous Speech Project” would use doublespeak to further her agenda.
Marjorie Scardino honestly believes that the general population is too stupid to decide what information they should be reading, and what sources they want to follow. She specifically mentions Twitter as one of the “newspapers” that needs to see top-down curation, and specifically uses the phrase, “you know who you’ve decided to follow and who you’ve decided to trust”, before going on to outline why that is dangerous. She specifically says that her true goal is to “start a movement that fundamentally changes the premises of the government”.
It seems as if she’s been plotting the roll out of both the highly-criticized algorithmic timeline and Twitter’s Trust & Safety council for many years. In conjunction with the quotes above that clearly state she has no intention to focus on maximizing profits, it seems that investors might have a clear cut case in court showing that this company has been co-opted by a political radical whose true intention is to start a movement to revolutionize the government, instead of making money.
Considering that MacArthur is known to have given a grant valued at between $35,000-150,000 specifically to fight GamerGate and other online movements that criticize feminism — while Scardino was its chairman — it’s no surprise Twitter is using its new power to crack down on both Trump’s following and the Alt-Right. Scardino is a huge advocate of starting online movements to change the world — but only if those movements are coming from the Left.