TOKYO -- Twitter plans to step up efforts to curb attempts to interfere with elections in India and other countries, CEO Jack Dorsey said recently, as the company navigates growing scrutiny to establish a footprint in the South Asian country.
In an interview with Nikkei in early December in Tokyo, Dorsey said Twitter "fits perfectly" in India, the world's largest democracy, which is "very outward looking and diverse." He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has 44 million followers on Twitter, in November and discussed how to promote international dialogue through the service.
Against a backdrop of maturing markets in the U.S. and Europe, Asian countries like India have become important drivers for social media companies. India reportedly became the fastest growing market for Twitter last year, although Facebook and its messaging app WhatsApp remain much more popular.
Questions about social media platforms' ability to fight the threat of political influence have grown since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Observers are watching whether companies like Twitter can weather India's general election next year, in which social media is set to play a vital role in campaigns. Facebook recently introduced a new policy in India, in which advertisers that want to run political ads have to confirm their identity and location.
Twitter has been focusing on reducing bots and trolls -- fake accounts that analysts say are used to interfere with elections by spreading certain content -- at the expense of slower user growth.
"Our role in any event like an election is to show the conversation around it, and we have seen people trying to game that to amplify messages from beyond an earned reach," Dorsey said. "We are building systems that continue to help us recognize where that's happening and then shut it down."
Dorsey said the company needs "strong partnership with local government and with local journalists" to protect the integrity of elections.
Rising scrutiny over the handling of user data is also spreading to Asia. Facebook is under investigation in multiple countries, including in Asia, for exposing information on up to 87 million users to third parties. The European Union rolled out a new regulation intended to protect user privacy.
Dorsey sought to distance Twitter from other Internet giants like Facebook and Google, stressing that most Twitter users are aware that their tweets are viewed by the public. He said regulations have a positive impact as long as they protect individuals and offer a level playing field.
After co-founding Twitter in 2006, Dorsey returned to the CEO post in 2015 and led the company to its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2017. Still, with a market capitalization of around $25 billion, Twitter is much smaller than the U.S. internet titans.
Dorsey said the company is looking at ways of generating revenue beyond its core advertising business. "We should be open-minded toward things like subscriptions or tipping models," he said, referring to a function in Periscope, the livestreaming app owned by Twitter.
Artificial intelligence and blockchain are technologies that will have "the biggest impact" on Twitter's future, Dorsey said. AI is already used to display tweets according to user preferences.
But Dorsey also pointed out that the impact of AI on employment is, along with climate change, an issue that needs to be debated on a global scale. "We are facing the displacing of work through artificial intelligence, which will exacerbate the problem of economic disparity."
"I don't know how else to do that but conversation," he said. "I want to help lift the conversation from nation-state to global."
Jack Dorsey, 42, co-founded Twitter in 2006 and was appointed CEO in 2015. He also serves as chairman and CEO of Square, a U.S. payments company, and was formerly a director at Walt Disney.