Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey interviewed NSA whistleblower and cybersecurity activist Edward Snowden in a live Q&A session on Tuesday (13 December) discussing various issues including Donald Trump, fake news and suggestions to improve Twitter. The conversation was broadcast live on Periscope from the Pardon Snowden Twitter account.
The conversation initially focused on Snowden's historic disclosures in which he leaked classified information about the scale of mass surveillance programmes in the US and UK. Since then, Snowden has been residing in Russia in exile to avoid standing trial in the US where he faces charges brought under the 1917 Espionage Act that could put him in jail for up to 30 years.
However, the former NSA contractor has remained active on social media and continues to speak at various events through video-conference to discuss issues such as privacy, cybersecurity and mass surveillance among others.
Dorsey, however, shifted the conversation and asked Snowden how Twitter could improve the platform and the user experience. Snowden responded saying he would like to see the platform expand its messages beyond 140 characters.
"Twitter has tried to expand what you can fit into tweets, which I think is an important effort, particularly when you talk about content," Snowden responded. "The fact that when you add a picture to a tweet, you lose 22 characters? That's painful. Honestly, that's terrible." He praised the company for addressing that issue in September when the platform excluded photos, videos, gifs, quoted tweets and polls from the 140 character limit.
Snowden also recommended that the company should try to keep users from leaving the site whenever they click on a link to an article.
"It takes you out of the Twitter client, it takes you into the web browser," Snowden said. "It breaks the user experience and that, for me, is a challenge." He also suggested that the platform allows users to edit their tweets and add disappearing private messages as well.
During the interview, Snowden also weighed in on the ongoing fake news issueas well. Social media platforms, including Facebook, have continued to garner sharp criticism since the US presidential election with many claiming that faux news stories published on their sites helped sway the election in Donald Trump's favour.
However, Snowden argued that censorship of user content is not the answer for technology companies facing this issue.
"The problem of fake news isn't solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other," Snowden said. "The answer to bad speech is not censorship.
"The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular."
When asked about his future under President-elect Donald Trump's administration and if he is worried a Trump presidency may lead to his imprisonment, Snowden said he's not.
"I'm not worried, Snowden said: "I'm comfortable with the decisions that I made. I believe that I did the right thing. If my own personal security was the only thing I cared about, I would have never come forward and done all this."