Twitter users are trying to buy Twitter

The #WeAreTwitter campaign may never achieve its goal. But it is pushing an important debate: Who should social platforms serve?

Jared Spears
May 15, 2017 · 10 min read
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The social network that couldn’t quite

Twitter, the pulse of the 24-hour internet news cycle, has become vital to the near-instantaneous spread of information around the world. Beyond its pervasiveness within the media-entertainment sector, Twitter has proved a profoundly powerful tool for social change — in coordinating mass movements, amplifying under-represented voices, even providing world leaders, for better or worse, an impromptu loud-speaker addressable to the entire globe.

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A rising movement for platform cooperativism

The cooperative business model is not a novel concept. On the small scale, you may be familiar with co-ops through your housing board or local green grocer. Larger scale oft-cited successes include REI in the states, Mondragon in Europe, even The Green Bay Packers.

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Symptoms of a deeper crisis

The discrepancy between Twitter’s public utility and its market value is not unrelated to the discrepancy between Uber or AirBnB’s valuation and the respective crises each presents to the communities affected. Their financial valuations are predicated on rapid-growth and eventual return on investment for shareholders, regardless of whatever else may be at stake for the society within which the platforms derive their value.

Methods of extraction

Since the 90s, the internet has been hailed in public discourse for its transformative potential — a means for radically changing the way knowledge is accumulated and distributed in society, and how people are able to connect around the world.

Buy Twitter and beyond

There’s no blueprint for transitioning a publicly traded corporation into a democratically-run cooperative. Even if a transition were successfully achieved, big questions would loom. How would Twitter shares be distributed among employees, major contributors, and the average user? What scheme of democratic governance would be adopted? And how would a collectively-run Twitter handle issues like harassment, product development and revenue models? These are the questions now being debated among activists as the 22 May vote approaches.

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Thoughts On Journalism

Taking on the problems and challenges in journalism.

Jared Spears

Written by

To define is to limit.

Thoughts On Journalism

Taking on the problems and challenges in journalism. Spreading ideas, passions and new ways of thinking about media. A publication run by Media Lab Bayern.

Jared Spears

Written by

To define is to limit.

Thoughts On Journalism

Taking on the problems and challenges in journalism. Spreading ideas, passions and new ways of thinking about media. A publication run by Media Lab Bayern.

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