Twitter’s shareholders will vote at the company’s annual meeting next month on whether or not to turn the firm into a user-owned co-operative, radically restructuring how the company operates.
The plan is the result of a petition campaign that has been signed by nearly 3,500 people, which argues that the social network’s global reach and influence isn’t being properly utilised by a corporate focus on financial performance.
“For a lot of us, Twitter is the fastest, easier way to know and share what’s going on around us – it sparks conversations, spreads information, and energises movements,” reads the petition. “But Wall Street thinks the company is a failure because it’s not raking in enough profit for shareholders. That means that Twitter is up for sale, and there is a real risk that the new owner may ruin our beloved platform with a narrow pursuit of profit or political gains.”
According to the petition, the co-operative structure would ease the short-term pressure of the stock market and even open up new revenue streams, enabling users to ‘buy in’ as ‘co-owners’ with a stake in the platforms’ long-term success. The petition also suggests that the radical transformation would provide an opportunity to create a more transparent and accountable process for dealing with abuse over the social network, and re-open the platform’s data to spur innovation.
The petition-makers cite successful online startups like Managed by Q and Stocksys United which operate on a co-operative structure, as well as organisations like the Associated Press, the Green Bay Packers and REI.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter’s board of directors is not in favour of the idea, arguing that it does not believe such a plan would enhance the value of Twitter and would limit Twitter’s options in the long term.
“We believe that preparing a report on the nature and feasibility of selling the ‘platform,’ and doing so only to ‘its users,’ would be a misallocation of resources and a distraction to our board of directors and management – resources and management time that could otherwise be used to build the long-term value of Twitter,” said Twitter’s board in a statement on the idea.
“We believe Twitter is on track to continue building on the long-term value of Twitter for all of our stockholders as a publicly held corporation and not as a ‘co-operative or similar structure’ owned solely by ‘its users’. As a publicly traded company, our users are also free to become stockholders of Twitter without any need to change the structure of the company.”
While the plan is opposed by Twitter’s executive team and unlikely to be voted into practice, the vote reflects a rising level of dissatisfaction among shareholders that mirrors that of the users who started the petition – a feeling that Twitter’s current business plan isn’t making the best use of its position in the digital world.