Twitter floats dramatic change to how social media platforms recommend content

CEO Jack Dorsey is backing a team to develop open-source recommendation algorithms that Twitter hopes to use one day

Twitter is funding an independent team to examine how the platform could use the open-source model — a key aspect of cryptocurrency Bitcoin — as social media continues to incentivize outrage over information sharing, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday.

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Of course, Dorsey made the announcement on Twitter. The initiative will be called Bluesky, which will be tasked to develop open-source algorithms that determine how content is recommended to social media users.

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"Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media," Dorsey wrote. "The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard."

Twitter's chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, is in charge of finding someone to lead Bluesky, Dorsey said.

The CEO unpacked several reasons why Twitter is prioritizing the research on decentralization.

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"First, we're facing entirely new challenges centralized solutions are struggling to meet," Dorsey said. "For instance, centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people."

In addition, Dorsey said algorithms are growing in their power to direct users' attention without giving alternatives.

"Finally, new technologies have emerged to make a decentralized approach more viable," he wrote. "Blockchain points to a series of decentralized solutions for open and durable hosting, governance, and even monetization. Much work to be done, but the fundamentals are there."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Dorsey shared an article by computer scientist Stephen Wolfram that may shed more light on the Twitter leader's thinking. In it, Wolfram writes, "Social networks get their usefulness by being monolithic: by having 'everyone' connected into them. But the point is that the network can prosper as a monolithic thing, but there doesn't need to be just one monolithic [artificial intelligence] that selects content for all the users on the network. Instead, there can be a whole market of AIs, that users can freely pick between."

Dorsey said the project will take years.

"This isn't going to happen overnight," he wrote. "It will take many years to develop a sound, scalable, and usable decentralized standard for social media that paves the path to solving the challenges listed above. Our commitment is to fund this work to that point and beyond."

A Twitter spokesperson said funding the research is "about exploring the fullest and most participatory vision of our service."

"We’ve long demonstrated our commitment to doing critical work in the open and empowering people to build off of the fundamentals of our service. ... In 2020, we will be raising our voice more prominently to support and foster these values," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.

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Twitter's decision comes after some conservatives accused the company of "shadow banning" their posts or accounts. The decision also comes as social media companies face increasing scrutiny from the U.S. government and regulators around the world.

FOX Business' inquiry to Bluesky was not returned at the time of publication.

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