Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took the stage at TED on Tuesday, just a day afterenduring criticism for abuse and misinformation on his social media platform.
Dorsey spoke with the head of TED, Chris Anderson, and the conference’s current affairs curator, Whitney Pennington Rodgers, about that very controversy.
Read more: The woman who blew open the Cambridge Analytica scandal says Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are ‘handmaidens to authoritarianism’
“We have seen abuse, we have seen harassment, we have seen manipulation, automation, human coordination, misinformation,” Dorsey said. “These are dynamics that we were not expecting 13 years ago.”
Dorsey said his biggest worry was his ability to address the issue in a systemic way. He recognized that Twitter has created a “pretty terrible situation” for women — and particularly women of color — but said the company was relying more on machine learning to identify abusive tweets as opposed to having people individually report them.
“Right now the system makes it super easy to harass and abuse others,” Dorsey said.
One of the problems with the current platform, he said, is that is places undue weight on followers and likes. Dorsey said if he could go back and re-create Twitter, he “wouldn’t even have a like count in the first place.”
Even as the CEO was discussing his plans to combat abuse, he received pushback both on and off-stage.
Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who broke the Cambridge Analytica scandal, tweeted live questions to Dorsey, asking about her own experience with harassment on Twitter:
A day earlier at TED, Cadwalladrreferred to Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as “handmaidens to authoritarianism” for allowing abuse to spread on social media.
On stage, Chris Anderson continued to question why Dorsey hadn’t tackled the issue with more urgency. He joked with the CEO that the world was joining him on a “great voyage” called the “Twit-tanic,” with the public warning him that there’s an iceberg ahead.
“We go to the bridge and you’re exhibiting this great calm, but we’re all going, ‘Jack, turn the f—ing wheel,” Anderson said, to laughter from both Dorsey and the crowd.
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