The last time Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey had a direct exchange on Twitter was very tense.
It appeared that there were tensions between the two billionaires who had, in the past, shown signs of mutual respect and admiration. One would have said that they were friends, or tech bros.
“Twitter went from real time to 1 minute delay,” Dorsey mocked on the decentralized platform Nostr on Feb. 8, after it was reported that Twitter was hit with an outage. “What’s happening a minute from now.”
The criticism followed a tense exchange between the two billionaires two months earlier, after Musk claimed that Twitter 1.0 did not do implement any measures about the safety of children on the platform.
“It is a crime that they refused to take action on child exploitation for years!” Musk said on Dec. 9.
“This is false,” Dorsey immediately pushed back. “I don’t know what happened in past year,” Dorsey said. “But to say we didn’t take action for years isn’t true. You can make all my emails public to verify. Company took away my access to email or I would.”
Last month, Dorsey spoke again critically of Musk and the platform he co-founded. As a reminder, the billionaire remains a minority shareholder of Twitter 2.0, because he rolled in his $2 billion stake when Musk acquired the social network last October for $44 billion.
“No,” Dorsey responded last month when asked, by users of Bluesky, one of the new social networks perceived as alternatives to Twitter, whether he thought Musk was the right leader for Twitter. “Nor do I think he acted right after realizing his timing was bad. Nor do I think the board should have forced the sale. It all went south.”
After a long absence, Dorsey, who runs Block, a payments service company formerly known as Square, has just reappeared on Twitter. He has written a series of enigmatic tweets in recent days. These messages did not go unnoticed, since Musk reacted to each one of them.
One of the messages, which got the most attention, is one in which the billionaire indicates that America has a problem.
“America has a problem,” Dorsey said on May 26.
“Too many social media companies?” Musk suggested.
Dorsey did not respond.
It is unclear whether Dorsey is serious or just referring to the title of a Beyonce song from her album ‘Renaissance’. The pop star, who is currently touring Europe, released a remix of the song in recent days featuring rapper Kendrick Lamar. The rapper is one of Dorsey’s favorite artists based on the billionaire’s tweeting history.
“Kendrick,” he posted last June.
Contrary to what the title suggests, the song is not political. The song is about the effect Beyonce had on her lover. In the remix, Lamar added references to artificial intelligence.
It is also interesting to see Musk suggest that America’s problem is too much social media. Does he mean it, or is this a subtle criticism to Dorsey, who is a major force behind the rise of two decentralized social networks considered to be direct alternatives to Twitter? Dorsey started backing Bluesky in 2019, while he was still Twitter’s CEO. He has also been promoting Nostr, another decentralized platform of which he is a frequent user and to which he donated 14 Bitcoin — about $245,000 worth at the time — in 2022, to help fund the open-source protocol’s development.
Decentralized social media allow users to own and control their data, as well as to communicate and share information directly with other users. There is no centralized entity, unlike mainstream social platforms.
In 2021, a partisan group of lawmakers concluded that social media use can lead to severe mental health problems, including sleep disorders, depression, and suicide. Tech companies, experts say, use artificial intelligence to determine people’s interests and desires, and feed users content which fulfills those desires. This can be particularly problematic for adolescents, who may lack the self-discipline and maturity needed to stop watching the content.
Researchers have even suggested that some people experience addiction to social media in ways that are similar to addiction to drugs and other substances.
Several states are considering bills to address social media addiction, fueled, according to experts, by algorithmic addiction. The U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, who is the country’s top public health official, recently warned against the use of social media by children and adolescents. He called it an “urgent public health issue” and urged policymakers, parents, tech companies and schools to act.
Another exchange between Dorsey and Musk about who controls people’s minds is also gripping.
“Whoever controls the media controls the mind,” the first tweeted on May 27.
The second replied with three emojis, which suggest he is considering what his peer just said.