Jack Dorsey sat down for a 30-minute conversation with President Donald Trump today. They discussed Twitter's role in the public conversation and Trump's contention that the site has removed some of his followers out of anti-conservative bias. Before the meeting, Dorsey sent an email to all Twitter employees, explaining his decision to meet with the commander in chief, knowing that decision would be unpopular with many of them.
"Some of you will be very supportive of our meeting [with] the president, and some of you might feel we shouldn't take this meeting at all. In the end, I believe it's important to meet heads of state in order to listen, share our principles, and our ideas," Dorsey wrote.
In a subsequent email on the same thread, he laid out his philosophy more plainly:
"As you know, I believe that conversation, not silence, bridges gaps and drives towards solutions. I have met with every world leader who has extended an invitation to me, and I believe the discussions have been productive, and the outcomes meaningful."
Just think about that first sentence for a moment: Conversation, not silence, bridges gaps and drives towards solutions.
Dorsey is telling us something we all already know: We'll never get along if we don't talk to each other. And yet, in our deeply divided political world today, we almost never have conversations with those on the other side of the divide. We have conversations with people we generally agree with about just how awful the other side is. We may have shouting matches with people on the other side, and we may lob insults back and forth on Facebook or Twitter. But we rarely have a simple conversation where we ask those who disagree with us about the basis of their beliefs and the experiences that led them there. And we almost never seek common ground. Dorsey's right that we should be doing all those things, whether the person we see as the enemy is someone who disagrees with us politically, or someone who disagrees with us at work.
Make no mistake--Dorsey and Trump are not likely to be pals anytime soon. Although the meeting was private, an insider with direct knowledge of it told the Washington Post that most of the 30 minutes was spent on Trump's complaint about Twitter removing some of his followers, and followers of other conservative figures as well. Dorsey explained that follower counts on Twitter tend to fluctuate as the site is constantly removing fraudulent accounts. He himself has lost followers as a result of that process, the Twitter CEO said.
Trump may also be displeased if Twitter goes ahead with recently announced plans to tag posts that should have been removed in accordance with its terms of service, but have been left in place because the person posting them is a public figure and the tweets may become the subject of public conversation. For example, Trump called one of his former aides a "dog" in a recent tweet. That might have been removed if you or I had tweeted it, but because a head of state's tweets are inherently noteworthy and newsworthy, Twitter's policy is to leave them in place.
The problem with this approach is that it a) may cause confusion about what does and doesn't violate the company's terms of service, and b) has resulted in many calls for Trump's offending tweets to be removed. So Twitter has come up with a solution: It will start adding a boilerplate explanation when a tweet violates its rule but is left in place because of the prominence of the person who tweeted it. It's hard to predict how Trump will react to having his tweets marked as ones that would have been removed if he weren't president. He might invite Dorsey back for another conversation.
But for now, both parties have made sure to be publicly cordial about their conversation--and to leave the door open for further exchanges. If these two leaders can sit down for a polite chat with someone they completely disagree with, you and I can do it too.
Thank you for the time. Twitter is here to serve the entire public conversation, and we intend to make it healthier and more civil. Thanks for the discussion about that.-- jack (@jack) April 23, 2019