The COVID-19 pandemic will push social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to be more accountable about the content on their platforms. That’s the thought from former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo who says he supports current CEO Jack Dorsey even amidst calls for him to step down.
A group of tech’s biggest names including Google (Google Stock Quote, Chart, News Nasdaq:GOOG), Microsoft (Microsoft Stock Quote, Chart, News Nasdaq:MSFT), Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook (Facebook Stock Quote, Chart, News Nasdaq:FB) and Twitter (Twitter Stock Quote, Chart, News NYSE:TWTR) sent out a joint statement on Monday saying they’d be working closely together on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when it comes to the spread of false information related to the crisis.
“We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world,” read the statement. “We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
Subsequently, Facebook has created its own coronavirus information centre aimed at putting useful information at the top of users’ feeds, while Twitter said it was broadening its definition of harmful —and therefore banned— content to include tweets that deny health authority recommendations or promote ineffective or harmful protective measures.
“As we continue to provide guidance to our employees that they must work from home to support self-distancing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, we also need to operationally pivot our core efforts to keep people safe on Twitter,” read the statement on Wednesday.
And while the fraught relationship between social media platforms and content censorship has a long and ongoing history, Costolo, partner at Index Ventures, thinks there might be a new reality emerging from the current crisis.
Asked about whether social media has stepped up to the plate when it comes to combating misinformation around COVID-19, Costolo told Bloomberg Technology on Thursday, “I think they’ve done that. Twitter announced much more aggressive terms against misinformation, information that is antithetical to the scientific evidence, and more. They’ve been very aggressive in taking down people’s [tweets] that were encouraging self-harm. I think that it could be a turning point and probably a welcome one for a lot of folks,” Costolo said.
Current Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has taken fire in recent months over his ability to lead both Twitter and tech company Square, but Costolo said that the proof is in the pudding when it comes to Dorsey.
“Look, Jack’s done a great job of leading the teams there, which is evidenced by the fact that he’s beloved by the management teams,” Costolo said.
“I think that folks running Product and Engineering now at Twitter, Kayvon Beykpour on the Product side and Matt Derella on the go-to-market side, these are all great executives with tons of experience at Twitter. [Dorsey] is beloved by that team and those people are beloved by their teams, so I don’t have any complaints about what’s going on over there,” he said.
As to the state of the market during the current crisis, Costolo says that investors need to take up the opportunity to buy at reduced prices.
“My personal take on this is that in 2001 and 2008-2009 those were both great buying opportunities. You never know where the bottom is going to be and you never know when it’s gonna end but I‘ve felt over the past few days that a couple years from now we’ll look back and wish we’d been buying more when prices were where they are,” he said.
“So I’ve been a buyer,” Costolo said.