Twitter wants your ideas for how to fix Twitter. Seriously.

The social networking giant is holding a livestream to discuss ideas for how to measure the "health" of conversations on its service.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read
Twitter shown on a computer screen.

Twitter is looking for a little advice.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

Twitter needs help. And it's not afraid to ask for it. 

CEO Jack Dorsey held a livestream Thursday to discuss ideas for how to fix its service, and how we can help.

It all comes after Dorsey posted a series of tweets last week acknowledging that his influential social network has an extremely toxic side, and that his team had underestimated its "real-world negative consequences." Twitter, he acknowledged, has "witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns and increasingly divisive echo chambers."

So what now?

The company's attempting to fix the problem. Twitter rules now prohibit people from using offensive account names, for example. It's also stepping up enforcement of its terms of service, while making more clear what those rules are in the first place

Now it's asking us to help, soliciting our ideas for how to promote and measure more-civil conversation. Proposals are due April 13.

To many Twitter followers, what's most surprising is how long it's taken for the company to get here. Over the past few years in particular, the social media service has become a central stage for abuse, be it revenge porn, attack mobs, privacy violations, death threats or attempts to sway elections.

It's not all been bad. Tweets on the media platform was also ground zero for the Arab Spring, #BlackLivesMatter and, most recently, #MeToo and #TimesUp against sexual harassment.

"One of the things we've tried to focus on as a company is to be impartial as we can be when making decisions and not to look at political viewpoints when we are addressing behavior," said Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead. She reiterated Twitter's commitement to "free expression," regardless of what comes out of the idea gathering process.

"We focus a lot on the type of content or behavior that we don't want to see," she said, "But we don't spend a lot of time thinking about how to encourage the right types of content that is permitted by our rules."

Dorsey said Twitter's already received ideas from academics and users, and plans to reach out to finalists after the April 13 deadline. 

During the livestream, however, Dorsey faced some backlash from users who are concerned about Twitter executive's perceived political leanings, as well as criticism the company itself is too opaque.

"You have my commitment we will continue to show our progress and emphasize the show and not the tell," Dorsey said.

Searching for positive

The company also noted it's searching for ideas that help it measure how Twitter's succeeding, not so much how it's failing.

David Gasca, Twitter's product manager on health, noted that the company already has internal data around spam and toxicity of conversations, but noted those are "all very negative." 

"We really want to think about the health of the community," he said.

To that end, Twitter also plans to open its verified accounts system to all users, allowing them to prove their authenticity, which is displayed as a blue checkmark on their account. 

Dorsey said Twitter isn't proud about how people have "taken advantage" of its service. Nor is he happy about the company's apparent inability to address these issues in a timely manner.

Perhaps this will be the start of a turnaround.

Update, 1:04 p.m. PT: To include link to Dorsey's livestream.
Update, 1:20 p.m. PT: To include comments from the livestream.
Update, 2:01 p.m. PT: To include details about opening up verified accounts system to all users.

iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.