In a report published by The New York Times today, Twitter co-founder Ev Williams says that “the internet is broken,” and that if Twitter is responsible for President Trump’s election in November, he’s “sorry.”
The report takes a look at Ev’s career, his current work with Medium, and his efforts to fix what he sees as an internet that is going off the rails. He notes he had initially believed that developing platforms such as Blogger and Twitter would improve the world by giving people a voice, but now thinks otherwise: “I was wrong about that.”
In particular, Williams expressed regret for the role that Twitter might have played in bringing Donald Trump to the White House. The president said in March that he believed that the service allowed him to deliver his message straight to his followers, and that he “wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter.” Presented with that, Williams said that “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” and that “if it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
The internet has become a road where everyone slows down to watch car accidents
Williams observed that the internet as a platform rewards such extreme behavior, and likened it to a road where everyone slows down to watch car crashes. Twitter has become a road with plenty of those car crashes, and has struggled to balance what it sees as a neutral platform for speech, and providing a welcoming place for users. This spring, it began focusing on beefing up and introduced features designed to limit spam and harassment. With Medium, Williams wants to try and find a path that avoids those car crashes, although it remains to be seen how or if that’ll happen.
Since November, Twitter in particular has grappled with its role in the election, particularly in how Trump used the site, while abuse intensified throughout the 2016 campaign. Williams’ comments are unequivocal on the matter, a departure from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s “complicated” feelings on the issue, who feels that the site helps keep Trump accountable.