Twitter is one medium through which Edward Snowden — currently seeking asylum in Moscow — is still connected with the world. A Q&A session organized by thePardon Snowden campaign was held between Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Snowden on Dec. 13 over Periscope, Twitter’s video broadcasting arm.
How could Twitter be fixed?
The initial discussion was about Snowden’s well-documented expose of mass surveillance by the U.S. government. Then it shifted to a crucial topic: how Twitter can be fixed.
Dorsey asked Snowden, “What would you like to see us do? What would you like to see us improve?”
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There are some Twitter features that do not go down well with users, and the same features irritate Snowden, who wasn’t shy sharing them. Twitter’s character constraint is very frustrating for users, and Snowden also pointed this out.
Talking of how the platform used to function, he said, “The fact that when you add a picture to a tweet, you lose 22 characters, that’s painful.”
In September, the micro-blogging firm addressed that problem by excluding videos, photos, polls, GIFs and quoted tweets from the 140-character limit. Snowden applauded the company for that. The former NSA contractor suggested that the company should work harder to stop users from exiting the platform.
Referring to how third-party webpages open up in a user’s browser when they click on a link to an article, Snowden said, “The clicking-through actions don’t work. It breaks the user experience there. People don’t like seeing the window change.”
Twitter could offer a solution integrated in its main app, drawing inspiration from Facebook’s Instant Articles, notes Quartz. Facebook allows users to edit their posts after they have been made public. Twitter should follow the same and allow users to tweak tweets after they’ve gone out into the world.
Why doesn’t Snowden follow other accounts?
During the video chat, which lasted for about an hour, Snowden said he uses Twitter in a “crude” way, partly to keep other tweeters safe. The NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower said he does search for information in which he is interested, but apart from @NSAgov, there is no other account that he follows. Snowden explained that if he follows other users, then U.S. authorities might start taking an interest in them also.
“I don’t think that would be fair to everybody that I’m following and interested in,” he said.
The chat was viewed by more than 132,000 people. According to Twitter, Snowden was not paid for participating in the chat.