Former Twitter CEO and co-founder talk social activism through social networking

12 Oct 2010

Former Twitter CEO Evan Williams has predicted that the use of Twitter as an agent for political and social change will increase in the upcoming years as the service grows.

Speaking at an INFORUM – Commonwealth Club event, which debated civic issues, both Williams and co-founder Biz Stone spoke of the effect Twitter will have on political activism.

“It’s always been our goal to reach the ‘weakest signals’ all over the world, such as the recent usage in Iran and Moldova,” said Williams, in reference to the service’s use during times of violent unrest and when local media showed little coverage of it in both countries.

Williams and Stone argued against a recent article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell, which stated the “the revolution will not be tweeted.”

Though Stone agreed that for meaningful change, strong ties with “real friends in the real world and a real hierarchical, military-like structure” were required to “get things done.”

“It’s not going to be technology that will be the agent of change that changes the world – it will be actual people making actual change,” said Stone.

But he contested the article, saying that, considering the huge level of the exchange of information over services like Twitter, it would be “absurd to argue that those are not effective and helpful and complementary, to disseminating information.”

Williams also said Twitter may not be ready to take on China as a test case for freedom of speech, saying that the company has no immediate plans to do this.

“We believe passionately in the free exchange of information across the world,” said Williams.

“We get the sense, however, that is not exactly how the Chinese authorities see them. Hence, we are going to hold off for now.

“China is big, but there are a lot of other places in the world where we want to focus,” he said.