An Offline Conversation with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo believes you can change the world in 140 characters. Twitter, he said at Brookings today, has created a platform for conversations reshaping politics and culture across the globe. What is Costolo’s vision for the company? As Twitter continues to grow, managing over one billion Tweets every two days, how is it affecting security, freedom of expression, social policy and modern communication?

The Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted Costolo for a discussion on June 26 focused on Twitter’s role as what Costolo calls a “global town square.” Strobe Talbott, President of Brookings, introduced Costolo, and Senior Fellow Jonathan Rauch moderated the discussion.

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Dick Costolo and Jonathan Rauch at a public Q&A at the Brookings Institution, June 26, 2013
Photo by Paul Morigi

Event highlights included:

  • When asked about Twitter’s response to the recently revealed National Security Agency’s data-mining programs, Costolo said that his company complies when it receives valid legal requests for information about Twitter users in the countries in which Twitter operates. However, he added that when Twitter receives “requests…more broad in scope… that don’t meet our principle of being a specific, valid legal request,” the company pushes back.
  • Costolo said that transparency reports go a long way toward helping people understand which requests are legally valid, and which are rejected. He called on the technology sector to place heavier emphasis on transparency reports in order to foster trust with users.
  • In response to an audience member who questioned whether Instagram videos will undermine the significance of Vine, Costolo said he believes in “goals, not competitors.” Twitter focuses on advancing its own vision, not reacting to the competition.
  • Asked if Twitter will harm traditional journalism, particularly the resource-intensive and long-form varieties, Costolo said he believes the opposite is more likely. Journalists will have a new resource and role in synthesizing and analyzing the streams of information flowing through Twitter.
  • During the session, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—something Twitter, among other signers of an amicus brief, had urged it to do. Inconsistent state and federal policies made doing business more difficult, Costolo explained, and “we’ve been very supportive as a company with our own employees of these progressive policies in the state of California, etcetera.”
  • Costolo’s favorite Twitter moment? Many, but he particularly liked actress Mia Farrow’s tweeted retort to comedian Sarah Silverman. Read the exchange here.

icontwitter Continue following the discussion at #TwitterCEO