Carol Hills: Some Nigerians are using Twitter to pressure their government to rescue the missing girls. They're using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls in all their messages. We're accustomed now to social media being used that way, but did Twitter's founders envision that back in the day?
Biz Stone: We knew that we were on to something bigger than just something fun.
Hills: That's Biz Stone, co-inventor and co-founder of Twitter. He watched his app as it helped to ignite the protests of the Arab Spring a couple years ago, but he says social media platforms like Twitter are given far too much credit.
Stone: It's not the platform that's changing the world. I always like to say that AT&T didn't claim credit for bringing down the Berlin Wall just because people used telephones in the process. At some point, someone must've called someone else and AT&T didn't get out in front of that and say "We did that!" It's people. It just happens to be that Twitter was the right tool at the right place in the right time. If it wasn't Twitter it would've been something else. You simply cannot ascribed credit to an algorithm and a bunch of machines.
Hills: How did you think about it when you still were at Twitter, when you were running into these authoritarian governments who were really trying to move in on your ability to protect your users?
Stone: It didn't matter where the line is or how angry any government became because it wasn't theirs to do with as they pleased. Hey, sure, if you want to use Twitter, you can. But you can't have what's not yours. The tweets belong to the people who write them. Twitter has a license to rebroadcast them. But you can't have any other information, it's just not yours to take.
Hills: I know you're no longer at Twitter, but can Twitter still hold on to that? It's now this giant company, it has to please Wall Street. Do you see a real danger that those pressures will come at the expense of the company's principles?
Stone: From my perspective, the ethos of twitter has been deeply embedded into its culture. It's part of why people are attracted to Twitter in the first place. But, as you say, it does have the challenge of being a publicly-traded company, it has investors to answer to and that's why we hired Dick Costolo, is to really make sure that sort of stuff is taken care of.
Hills: I'm curious, you know the local versions of Twitter, like Chinese Weibo, it's a Twitter-like thing, but it's not Twitter, so it doesn't have the protections that Twitter does. How do you feel about that? I know you're no longer at Twitter but it's a technology that you created.
Stone: Unfortunately, Twitter is sort of antithetical to the Chinese government's belief system. We believe everyone should have a voice and they can say anything they want and that's their right. Unfortunately, that just doesn't really fly in some other countries.
Hills: Your latest project is Jelly. What is it?
Stone: elly is a reimagining of how we get our answers to queries, something that really hasn't been done in 15 years and yet the technology landscape has completely changed in that time. We're all mobile, we're all social and we realize that well, maybe mobile phones are the hyperlinks of humanity and if we were to build a way for anyone to get an answer to their question we would leverage the social networks and the mobile phones to connect the person who wants help to the person who has that knowledge or experience to help them.
Hills: So is it crowdsourced answers based on your own connections and further out?
Stone: Exactly. So if you mentioned Paris, it'll go to people who used Jelly in Paris. It potentially increases the reach of your question to every person in the entire world.
Hills: Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter, he's now the CEO of Jelly. His new book is called "Things A Little Bird Told Me: Confessions Of The Creative Mind." Thanks so much, Biz.
Stone: Thanks for having me.