Hey, Twitter! Remember us? Your users? Hi.
So, we heard you may be sold, or that people close to you are at least considering it. That affects us. We’re not sure how, but it’s sure to. You’re such a neat tool, and your future will help determine how we connect with our friends, how we learn about the world, and how we talk with strangers. It will also determine what happens with all that data about ourselves that we’ve entrusted to you. The buyer of you, in certain ways, is the buyer of us.
We have an idea—a proposal. Your CEO, Jack Dorsey, recently called you “the people’s news network.” What if you really were the people’s? Why don’t we figure out a way for us to buy you instead?
Wall Street thinks you’ve failed. That’s because Wall Street only likes you for your stock price. We, on the other hand, think you’re great. We like you because you add good things to our lives—our news, our culture, and our relationships. (Sometimes you bring us some pretty gross, mean, weird things, too.) We’d like to make a deal to ensure that you can keep being great, and that the greatness we achieve together might be your overriding purpose, rather than just feeding some investor’s portfolio. We think that, together, we can make a business that works, thrives, and innovates in wonderful ways.
The thing is, we are you, already. That sounds a little strange to say, but it’s true. What would Twitter be without our tweets? We’re the product you sell to advertisers. But we’re more than products; we’re people. We want a say in the systems that shape our lives and communities. We want to find a way to create value together, and we want that value to reinforce the commons we’re creating, rather than being auctioned off to Wall Street. Let’s build a better kind of business model than selling our eyeballs to advertisers, and a better kind of ownership structure than gambling on old-fashioned stock markets.
That’d be good for us, and it’d be good for you. You’re people, too. Byyou, we mean not just Twitter the publicly traded corporation, but the people who care about Twitter most and know it best—the founders, the employees, the investors who see themselves as stewards of an awesome thing. The people who love Twitter most love it not because of what they can get from selling it but for what we all create on it together. Those are the people who need to come together right now, as Wall Street turns its back.
A community-owned Twitter would result in new revenue streams, since we users would have a chance to buy in as co-owners. We could re-open the platform’s data to spur innovation. We could set more transparent, accountable rules for handling abuse. And we would no longer merely be fickle users; we’d be invested in your sustainability and success. The very meaning of success would change. Without the short-term pressure of the stock markets, we believe we can realize Twitter’s full value—which the current business model has struggled to do for years now.
So, here’s the situation. A group of us wants to set up a cooperative to gather fellow Twitter users in the hope that we’ll be able to make a deal. A fair deal—one that rewards and includes the people who helped create the Twitter we love. We hope they’ll work with us. And Twitter is only the start, a chance to flex our thinking and organizing around co-owning a major platform utility; our cooperative is cooking up plans for bringing shared ownership elsewhere on the internet, too.
We, the undersigned, call on Twitter to work with us to share the future of the company with those who love and rely on it most. Some among us who are TWTR stockholders already are committing to assign their voting rights to this cause—blocking a corporate buyout and calling for a better option.
Twitter, remember when you first started? Nobody thought 140 characters at a time would amount to anything, and look what we’ve done together since then. Let’s do something amazing again. Let’s do this.
Read + Spread
- Nathan Schneider, “Here’s my plan to save Twitter: let’s buy it” (The Guardian, 2016.09.30)
- “Twitter should huddle with the Green Bay Packers while weighing M&A options” (MarketWatch, 2016.09.30)
- Cory Doctorow, “Proposal: turn Twitter into a user-owned co-op” (Boing Boing, 2016.10.04)
- “#BuyTwitter: Could Twitter Become A Co-Operative Business?” (#now, 2016.10.04)
- “The Twitter we <3 is never going to make Wall Street happy. It’s a public service & should be a non-profit!” (@AnonyOps, 2016.10.05)
- Johnny Haeusler, “Was wäre, wenn Twitter uns gehören würde?” (Wired.de, 2016.10.10)
- “Nutzer träumen von Twitter-Übernahme” (Spiegel Online, 2016.10.12)
- Pauli Olavi Ojala, “Twitter could be the next Mozilla” (The Startup, 2016.10.14)
- Press release: “#WeAreTwitter Movement Wants to Acquire Twitter, Turn It Into User-Owned Cooperative” (October 19, 2016)
- Loomio group – Loomio is an open-source decision-making platform created by a New Zealand-based worker cooperative. Since the Guardian article, this is where discussions have started to form around certain action items, and where decisions are being made about the initial directions of the effort. It’s an open group that anyone can sign up for.
- Slack team – We’re using this for some more in-depth discussions and projects. This is one party to which you’re welcome to invite yourself, here: slack 10 / 55
- Separately, Johnny Haeusler called for starting a Google Doc on “If we owned Twitter,” where people are gathering ideas focused on how Twitter could be organized once under the control of its participants.
One of the most hopeful things about this campaign is that it’s a chance to flex our thinking and organizing around the ambitious idea of co-owning a major platform utility. Whatever becomes of Twitter, we can work in a way so that we’re better equipped for this kind of possibility in the future.
Questions? Write to the organizing team at firstname.lastname@example.org
WeAreTwitter is a group of Twitter users and shareholders who are interested in buying the platform, cooperatively owning it, and maintaining it for the public good.