Jack Dorsey says he will give $1m a year to Signal

14 Dec 2022

Jack Dorsey at TED2019. Image: Ryan Lash/TED (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dorsey said he is planning a series of grants to support ‘open internet development’, adding that Twitter has failed to meet his social media principles.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is planning to give a $1m annual grant to encrypted messaging app Signal.

This is the first in a series of new grants planned by the tech entrepreneur, who said he wants to support “open internet development”.

These will include cash and equity grants, with an initial focus towards engineering teams working on social media and private communication protocols, bitcoin and a web-only mobile OS. He said the grants will begin next week and has asked for feedback on “other great candidates”.

Dorsey made the announcement in a blogpost yesterday (13 December), where he shared his principles about social media. He said social media should not be “owned by a single company or group of companies” and needs to be “resilient to corporate and government influence”.

“Allowing a government or a few corporations to own the public conversation is a path towards centralised control,” he added.

Dorsey stepped down as Twitter CEO in November 2021, nearly a year before Elon Musk took over the company.

In his blogpost, the platform co-founder was critical of Twitter under his leadership and “the Twitter of today”, saying that it did not meet any of the principles he listed.

He said this was “my fault alone”, as he stopped pushing for these principles when “an activist entered our stock in 2020”.

Now Dorsey is backing Signal, which was founded in 2014 as a free end-to-end encrypted messaging service and has proven popular among users who prioritise privacy. It got a boost in 2018 with $50m in funding from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton.

This funding was used to establish the Signal Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to developing open-source privacy tech for communications.

Acton has been executive chair for the Signal Foundation since 2018 and stepped in as Signal interim CEO in January, when its creator Moxie Marlinspike stepped down from the role.

The encrypted messaging app has seen some big changes in recent months. In September, Signal appointed former Google manager Meredith Whittaker to be its first president.

This position was created to help the company grow, with a focus on guiding its strategy, ensuring financial sustainability and broadening public communications.

In one of the first big moves under Whittaker’s presidency, Signal launched Stories for its users last month, a feature that is popular on WhatsApp and Instagram.

These are posts that are visible for 24 hours and can be deleted earlier if the user wishes. At the time of launch, Whittaker tweeted that the Stories feature is about “just updates from your friends” without any “endless ads” or “spammy content”.

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Jack Dorsey at TED2019. Image: Ryan Lash/TED via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic