Buy Twitter or Bye Bye Twitter – a campaign for our future

The first phase of an imaginative worldwide campaign, to convert Twitter into a user-owned co-operative, finishes today in San Francisco at the Twitter AGM.

The future of one of the world’s leading social networks has been the subject of speculation for over a year. Twitter’s viability as a business depends on finding new income streams from its users, yet its users look for a clean service with minimal advertising.

There has been a worldwide #BuyTwitter campaign leading to a formal resolution at the AGM to explore turning Twitter into a co-operative, owned by its users. The campaign was kicked off by an article by Nathan Schneider, advocate for a new generation of platform co-ops online, in the Guardian in an op-ed

Danny Spitzberg, an inspired and inspiring California-based sociologist, researcher and now campaigner, picked this up and started the #BuyTwitter campaign – with a @BuyThisPlatform twitter handle and #WeAreTwitter added hashtag.

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I siged up early on myself, and in the run up to the AGM, Co-operatives UK completed market research for the AGM which shows that two million active UK Twitter users would invest in Twitter if it became user owned. That translates into fourteen million potential user investors worldwide.

 

The proposal for the AGM – on https://www.buytwitter.org/proposal/ – was eminently reasonable. Developed by James McRitchie, expert in Corporate Governance at http://CorpGov.net  it asked the Board to explore the option, not to do it overnight – options are set out on the campaign website – buytwitter.org/thiscouldwork. The Board is recommending to vote against.

The context is that Twitter has a commercial challenge, because it can only bring  more money in by cluttering the platform with advertising, potentially losing what has been core to its success. This rant by Chris Sacca, activist investor who recently sold most of his shares sets out some of this. My own analysis is on http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ed-mayo/buy-twitter_b_16623194.html

In recent days, the International Co-operative Alliance issued an Open Letter to Twitter Shareholders, offering to support the conversion with advice and connections. In the UK, the activist investor group ShareAction helped to brief investment funds on the proposal, encouraging them to vote in favour. Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of ShareAction, explains that “our guidance for Twitter investors, in particular the Socially Responsible Investment funds, is to back Proposal 4, both to promote a visionary new model of co-operative ownership for Twitter.”

The campaign has generated over 100 commentaries in media outlets support and put the idea on the map. One of the most imaginative forms of support is a song by #Jez3Prez – Buy Twitter or Bye Bye Twitter

Twitter is one of a new generation of businesses which do something that goes beyond the market. What future do we want for it? Do we want to try to find ways monetise Twitter in order to provide a return for shareholders? Or do we want to find a way to preserve what its users love?

This has been a campaign for our future.

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