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Twitter plans to build 'decentralised standard' for social networks

CEO Jack Dorsey testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Twitter's algorithms and content monitoring in Washington in September.

San Francisco

TWITTER plans to set up an independent research group to create an "open and decentralised" system for social networks, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, which could appease critics of its content policies but also give rise to a new crop of competitors.

The system, or "standard", would not be owned by any single private company, he said, and would enable individuals to use a variety of services to access the same network, just like they choose different email providers to see the same messages.

Policing speech on social media sites has required hefty investments while still failing to stem criticism from users who find the policies either too aggressive or too lax.

"Centralised enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people," Mr Dorsey tweeted.

He said the new approach would allow Twitter to "focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past."

The idea, as outlined in articles he shared, is that developers could use their own algorithms to offer like-minded individuals targeted access to the same social media networks.

For instance, an individual could sign up with a provider that would aggressively filter out racist material, or another that would promote conversations over other content.

The open standard, however, could eventually upend Twitter's business model, giving rise to competitor services that offer filters, content suggestions or other tools that prove more popular with consumers.

Mr Dorsey said Twitter's chief technology officer Parag Agrawal will be in charge of hiring a lead for the research team, called BlueSky. Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it, he said.

He also suggested that blockchain technology might provide a model for decentralising content hosting, oversight and even monetisation of social media.  REUTERS