Employee Uprisings Sweep Many Tech ...
Employee Uprisings Sweep Many Tech Companies. Not Twitter.
Workers across the technology industry are forcing their employers to reconsider how their products are being used by the United States government.
At Microsoft, employees protested the company's contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Workers at Amazon pushed the firm to stop selling facial recognition services to law enforcement agencies. And after thousands of employees signed a petition against building "warfare technology," Google decided last month against renewing a contract to provide artificial intelligence systems for the Pentagon.
But it's premature to declare those giant tech companies as suddenly woke. The government contracts in question are inconsequential to their fortunes.
A better test of tech-worker activism would involve a company with a primary product that is being used to inject misinformation and authoritarian speech into mainstream conversation — and, more to the point, a company that appears to have directly benefited from the toxic flood of political vitriol in which all of us are now drowning.
In other words: Will there be an employee uprising at Twitter?
The social network favored by President Trump has a complicated political ethos. Jack Dorsey, Twitter's co-founder and chief executive, is an outspoken supporter of liberal causes, and the company has reveled in its centrality to viral progressive movements — the Arab Spring, #BlackLivesMatter, #metoo and #MarchForOurLives were all animated by forces on Twitter.
But Twitter's real-world effect has hardly been a liberal panacea. Around the world and particularly in the United States, Twitter is used every day to infuse misogyny, racial and ethnic animus and conspiratorial thinking into mainstream news coverage.
And Twitter is obviously the favored tool of President Trump, who has recently picked up the pace of his tweeting. The president often uses the service to seed threats and falsehoods into the world — falsehoods that are then picked up and amplified by supporters and critics alike, ricocheting to deafening effect across the news.
The tension between Twitter's liberal employee base and the service's role in news and politics has only heightened recently. For years, Twitter's business looked gloomy; with about 300 million users, it had a fraction of Facebook's billions of members, and it struggled to convince advertisers and the mainstream public of its relevance. But in the last 18 months, Twitter found a new focus in the news. The company shed ancillary businesses and tweaked its central feed to highlight virality, turning Twitter into a bruising barroom brawl featuring the most contentious political and cultural fights of the day.
The strategy is working. Users and advertisers are returning, the stock has made steady gains, and thanks to Mr. Trump, no one questions Twitter's relevance anymore. As BuzzFeed News declared last month, "Twitter is making an unexpected, somewhat miraculous comeback."