It's the week before Christmas, which means there isn't a lot of tech news that isn't focused on how much we're spending on last-minute gifts on Amazon, or which gadgets are currently on sale at the steepest discounts. Still, there's an interesting mystery brewing in one of Silicon Valley's growing rivalries.
It isn't a secret that Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg have very different ideas about the world. Both lead social platforms that are huge parts of our everyday lives, but for the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook respectively, that's about where the similarities end. And those differences aren't just about software or technology, but about the role their companies and platforms should play in important issues like free expression, fake news, and even election campaigns.
Lately, Dorsey hasn't been shy about his feelings toward Facebook or its founder, but his latest salvo is quite the mystery. Earlier today, Dorsey followed a twitter account, @bigtechalert, which exists only to report on the following and unfollowing activities of CEOs of tech companies. Then, Dorsey unfollowed Mark Zuckerberg, which was promptly reported by BigTechAlert.
Which, would be interesting enough on its own, except it gets better because Twitter's official PR account, @twittercomms, then tweeted a response.
It's not clear what prompted Dorsey to unfollow Zuckerberg's account, which is basically dormant and only includes 12 tweets in the last 10 years. But whatever the reason, it's clear that Dorsey wanted people to notice.
I reached out to Twitter, and received an immediate response, but was told by a spokesperson that the company has "no further comment to add." I even asked why Mark Zuckerberg's account isn't verified, which is strange even if he doesn't actively use the account.
Despite the lack of comment from Twitter, Dorsey clearly wanted to make a point. I'm not sure what it is, other than the fact that he disagrees with Zuckerberg's approach to a variety of issues. Lately, that's had to do with both companies' positions on political advertising.
A final note. This isn't about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today's democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It's worth stepping back in order to address.-- jack (@jack) October 30, 2019
Back in October Dorsey announced that Twitter would ban all political ads. Facebook, on the other hand, has basically said it is taking a completely hands-off approach to political ads and will not only continue to run them--but won't fact check them at all. Zuckerberg has said that Facebook's approach is an effort to promote free expression.
Dorsey also announced that Twitter was launching a project to create an open and decentralized standard for social media. Facebook, on the other hand, hasn't exactly endorsed an approach that could threaten its position as the world's second-largest advertising platform.
Whether any of this has anything to do with Dorsey's unfollowing Zuckerberg, or the company's tweet in response (a goat?), we may never know. What we do know is that the rivalry between the two seems to be escalating. And, whether his move was a playful joke or some serious shade, Dorsey seemingly wanted us all to know exactly what he was doing. Even if we don't know why.