In the Fall of 2016, Twitter investors were down in the dumps. Rumors had been swirling over the summer about potential suitors eyeing acquiring the social platform, but, one by one, all the major possible players rejected it. With its value and future in question, journalist and platform co-op enthusiast Nathan Schneider came out in The Guardian with a bold proposal: Twitter's users should purchase the platform as a co-op!
This vision sparked a great deal of conversation, and, in December, a shareholder resolution was submitted that calls on Twitter to produce a study on the feasibility of transitioning ownership to a co-op or similar broad-based structure. The resolution was included, over the objections of the company's board of directors, on the proxy ballot that has been sent out in preparation for Twitter's annual shareholders meeting on Monday, May 22.
As the #BuyTwitter campaign has unfolded and grown over the past few months in support of the resolution, it has proven to be a surprisingly powerful vehicle for communicating the co-op idea at scale. This is driven by the fact that the campaign is actually engaging Twitter users in something of a "meta-discussion" about the nature of our relationship to the social platforms that we use to communicate with each other.
The recent American election affirmed to many that the power of social media has begun to eclipse the hegemony of the legacy media establishment. If that's the case, then the stakes of who owns Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk are no longer just which VC firms get to profit off of your cat photos. Such companies' algorithms now have the power to fundamentally shape the political and social realities we inhabit, and the question of who gets to wield that power has become one of the more important political questions of our time.
In this moment of profound uncertainty and future shock, the #BuyTwitter campaign has brought a compelling alternative vision to the table: that social media could be re-structured to empower its users, rather than exploiting their psychological vulnerabilities for material gain. This narrative has been a wedge through which awareness of the co-op model has been spreading in the tech-savvy Twitter community, and the more this signal can be boosted between now and the May 22 vote, the more beneficial awareness of our model can be reaped by the whole co-op movement!
Therefore, consider taking the following concrete next actions, both personally and for your co-op:
- Sign the #BuyTwitter Petition!
- Follow the @BuyThisPlatform account, which has been acting as a clearing house for the #BuyTwitter conversation and movement.
- Engage in the meta-discussion with your co-op's members on social media! An example of this would be tweeting something along these lines from your co-op's account:
Our #CreditUnion is a depositor-owned #coop; what do you think of the #BuyTwitter proposal for $twtr to #GoCoop? https://www.buytwitter.org/
Such prompts serve both to reinforce your members' understanding of the co-op model, while also giving the campaign a boost!
Matt Cropp is the Associate Director of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center, Chief Manager of the Vermont Solidarity Investing Club, and Board President of Full Barrel Co-op. He can be found on Twitter @MattCropp and on Mastodon at MattCropp@Social.coop