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  • Mary MacCarthy

What have Twitter users been saying directly to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey?

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

NEWS KEYWORD SEARCH: I searched for Tweets addressed to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at his handle, "@Jack."

CONTEXT: Calls have been mounting for Twitter to suspend President Trump's Twitter account - a move the social media platform finally took on January 6, the day that Trump supporters violently stormed the U.S. capitol. Twitter announced that it was shutting down the president's account for 12 hours - a move lauded by many Trump critics, and denounced by many of his supporters.

In order to gauge how people were reacting to the decision, I decided to run a search for Tweets addressed directly to Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey (@Jack).

MY EXPECTATION: I assumed that the vast majority of Tweets addressed to @Jack would be about Trump and the decision to suspend Trump's Twitter account.

ROBOT'S RESULTS: The robot collected nearly 30-thousand Tweets addressed to @Jack between January 1 and 8. As I had predicted, the majority of these were related to Donald Trump's account, a sampling of which you can see below:

Many of the Tweets call for @Jack to suspend Trump's account, or praise him for doing so. Others critique the move, saying it amounts to censorship.

However, the robot also highlighted the fact that not all Tweets during this time were about Trump. The robot found two other dominant topics in messages to @Jack - both of which surprised me.

The first of these topics: the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. I'm an avid follower of tech news, but I hadn't realized that Jack Dorsey has become a prominent expert on and advocate for Bitcoin.

Here's a sample of some of the cryptocurrency and Bitcoin Tweets sent to @Jack, many of these ones marking Bitcoin's January 3 "birthday."

The other dominant topic in the Tweets to @Jack has no relation to the tech world or to politics. The topic is defined by Tweets from Twitter users in Nigeria, asking @Jack to verify the accounts of two Nigerian personalities: reality television star and influencer and influencer Erica Nlewedim, and political leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Here's a sampling of the Tweets:

I had never heard of Ms. Nlewedim or Mr. Kanu. But, as evidenced by their massive numbers of Twitter followers (over 400-thousand for Erica Nlewedim, and over a quarter million for Mazi NNamdi Kanu), both appear to be popular and influential figures in their fields.

WHAT DID I LEARN FROM THE ROBOT? The robot's results certainly confirmed my assumption that thousands of Twitter users have been writing to @Jack with thoughts and concerns about Trump's Tweets - underlining the power and influence that tech CEOs like Jack Dorsey have in U.S. politics.

But - equally or perhaps more importantly - the robot brought to the surface unexpected topics that also dominate a significant percentage of messages addressed to @Jack.

I interpret these topics not as anecdotal, but rather as highlighting important trends.

In the case of the Tweets about Bitcoin, I now know that Jack Dorsey is a key player in the cryptocurrency world. Why does that matter? Well, we've established that @Jack has enormous political power. It wouldn't be unreasonable to think that he might eventually want to leverage that power in the cryptocurrency space - maybe with a TweetCoin? We know that Facebook launched its own currency last year; could @Jack have similar plans?

Finally, what about the Nigerian celebrities - does that tell us anything important? Yes. First, it serves as a reminder of another element of Twitter's vast power: its decisions whether or not to grant the coveted "verify" or "blue check" status to users. In the case of actress Erica Nlewedim, a blue check could lead to bigger earnings; in the case of political leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, a blue check could lend greater credibility to his separatist movement.

Here in the U.S., the debate is raging over the role that tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google play in our individual lives and even in our democracy. It's important to remember that these companies also wield enormous power far beyond U.S. borders - affecting everything from the livelihoods of individuals to the prospects of political parties.

TECHNICAL NOTES: Twitter dataset collected using Twarc API. Topic modeling using Natural Language Processing and Latent Dirichlet Allocation (Python/Pandas/NLTK).

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