Fri 25 Nov 2016

How about a Twitter "Union" ?

V Vica Public Seen by 93

Dear all,

Sorry for starting a new thread, but I’ve joined the group late and have found it quite hard to navigate all the threads.

I have looked at the thread “https://www.loomio.org/d/KI6Z5P2a/discussion-points-forming"
and I would be interested in focusing on:

Buy Twitter - organise, incorporate, fundraising, politicise, buy twitter. The original vision.

I have a slightly different strategy to offer and would be interested in people’s thoughts on it.

What I would like to suggest is that instead of setting up a coop to buy up twitter shares in one go, we set up a “union” with a co-op structure that shareholders can join.

The union does not itself buy shares in twitter, but any individual with shares can join the union which has a governance structure with “one person, one vote” (rather then number of shares=number of votes).

We then build a campaign where we ask twitter users to autonomously buy (at least 1) share of twitter and join the union.

In this way we:

  • crowdsource the buying of twitter and can grow the shares over time.
  • form a body that is stakeholder in twitter and can have some “bargaining” power.

Something similar has been done in the UK with the Co-op bank https://saveourbank.coop/
(but it is not exactly the same as it is not a union of shareholders but of customers).

Curious to hear what people think....


Fritz Iv Sat 26 Nov 2016

Pooling shares is a nice idea and i like the special qualities of an Union very much since this might lead to an organization which can aim at a wide range of net-topics (privacy, fakenews, harassment, etc etc etc) However, a Union as an institutionalized advocacy of web-users against plattforms is as strong as their organization is - by structure, people, money, technology. Not an easy one, either.


Nathan Schneider Sat 26 Nov 2016

I like this approach a lot. We've been talking about something similar in terms of a "purchasing cooperative," but I'm not sure that just shareholder activism will be that easy. I think this effort could be more powerful if phrased as a union, organized as a cooperative, and perhaps involves some buying of stake, while not making that the primary activity. I'm on the fence about whether individuals or the union should be buying shares; I think we'd be a lot more effective if they were fully collectivized. But that said, everyone I've spoken with about shareholder activism says it's really, really hard. I think it could be more effective to focus on our capacity to affect the narrative about Twitter, which may actually create more leverage on the company's stock price than the actions of a minority group of shareholders.

In that case, too, we could have members who are not shareholders. Perhaps we set a sliding scale for membership dues, one member one vote (trusting that people, I guess, won't become members more than once).

Do you think we should limit it to Twitter? Or broaden it to other platforms (like under the framing of "the internet of ownership," which I'm happy to offer up)?


Alvaro Solache Sun 27 Nov 2016

And what about cocreate new ways of ownership free of the old paradigms? Lets test in a lab. Well shure there are a lot of experiments allteady donne with good and bad prectices. That s why i like fairsharemodel, cause can be flexible and covers al stakeholders points of view


john gieryn Sun 27 Nov 2016

I'm also intrigued by the potentials of co-op ↔ union interdisciplinary approaches. I think what's useful here is understanding both your perspective, Alvaro, with @ntnsndr's coalition-broadening approach that may appeal to the movements of yore and potentially attract allies from anchor institutions & big players in the modes of economic organizing that—in many cases—need serious evolution to be relevant in the age of ICT networks and media-based organizing like that we've seen from the Arab Spring to OWS to the Sunflower Revolution, etc.

These media-based organizing strategies have been very successful at changing narratives in ways that, in my opinion, are / have been building into important culture-changing paradigms. However, they have been remarkably unsuccessful at implementing new infrastructures or outcomes that can be framed as meeting specific demands, though this could arguably be more a result of challenges in messaging the victories, and strategic priorities that don't resonate in the ears of the "mainstream".

Nathan, I wonder if you'd comment here and/or elsewhere as to your vision of what's possible in terms of framing the narrative of the Twitter context?

Without fully understanding that, my current impressions are that the strategy of aiming at Twitter is causing some cognitive dissonance as people struggle to grapple with the viability of the proposal to #BuyTwitter, and that perhaps it would be better to aim at our other platforms, potentially with IoO as a basis (I'd also like to know more about the governance structures/ expectations of current participants/ etc. of the IoO website → maybe you could start a thread in the Platform Purchasing Co-op subgroup to talk about these details? @ntnsndr )


Rachael Lamkin Mon 28 Nov 2016

Friends, as we think and talk this through--all of which surfaces productive learnings regardless of their applicability to this specific project (Buy Twitter)-- i gently suggest that we keep in mind that Twitter is a publicly held company. Because $TWTR is publicly traded, we have to sharply focus on what that means for current shareholders. The great majority of shareholders in TWTR are institutions and professional investors. They each will want a premium on their stock price and you can be assured that none of them will be swayed by appeals to philosophy or ideals. Professional investors are agnostic as to morality. In fact, most can get sued for considering anything other than maximizing share price. And please forgive my bluntness but it is likely that talks of things like unions (which necessarily reduce profits) will not be appealing. Again, please forgive me for being blunt, and i am open to being wrong. I also know that much of these conversations have nothing to do with actually buying TWTR and are productive dialogues, as mentioned. But as to this specific project, I have been a professional investor since 1998 and I am an attorney versed in business litigation (IP, Tech, SEC., etc), and i am confident when i say that what shareholders care about (by mindset and by legal design) is profits. See below for some info on who currently owns TWTR and what they might expect.

Please don't misunderstand, I am all for revolutionizing how we create business, how we democratize capital; its why i am participating in this effort. But i asked that we keep in mind that a publicly owned company brings unique challenges for purchasing.

Thus, I ask here: what is our goal? If we want to prove the model of platform coops, and achieve many of the things i have just noted in this paragraph, taking on a private company (like Uber) is much more feasible. They have proven the model its profitable, the drivers are not happy, and it can be localized (as one example). If our only goal is that we love TWTR and we want to buy it, okay, lets talk but its a rather large fish and we will need precise lures.

See, e.g., http://www.recode.net/2016/8/11/12417064/twitter-stock-ownership-takeover-acquisition-challenges