Two million UK users would consider investing in Twitter as a co-op

Finds poll ahead of the social network’s AGM

With the proposal to turn Twitter into a user owned co-operative on the agenda at Twitter’s AGM on Monday (22 May), new research suggests that in the UK alone nearly 2 million people, 14% of active Twitter users, would consider investing in a user-owned Twitter if it were to become a co-op.

The future of one of the world’s leading social networks has been the subject of speculation for over a year. Twitter’s viability as a business depends on finding new income streams from its users, yet its users expect a no-cost service with minimal advertising. Big questions about the business’s future are hovering as the company’s shareholders gather for the social network’s AGM in San Francisco next week.

On the formal agenda is the proposal, item four of just five, to look at preserving Twitter’s reach and popularity by converting it into a user owned co-op where it is the people who use the social network who own and direct what it does.

The proposal came from a handful of minority of shareholders, but the idea has gathered momentum in recent weeks, with a number of shareholders and activists backing it. The UK-based activist investor group Share Action has circulated a briefing to leading ethical investment funds.

The UK has 14 million active Twitter users. A poll just conducted by YouGov on behalf of Co-operatives UK, the network for the country’s thousands of co-ops, found that 14% of them, which Co-operatives UK calculates as 1.96 million Twitter users, would consider investing in the social network if it were to become a co-op.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, says:

“Twitter is one of a new generation of businesses which do something that goes beyond the market. What future do we want for it? Do we want to try to find ways monetise Twitter in order to provide a return for shareholders? Or do we want to find a way to preserve what its users love?

“That Twitter ought to be a user owned co-op is a neat solution.  It will give the platform a network of millions of people who can invest small sums to create a viable business offer. And it will give the people who use it the say over the big issues - how it deals with issues like abuse and extremism, what levels of advertising are acceptable, and what ultimately it does to remain sustainable.”

Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, says:

“Our guidance for Twitter investors, in particular the Socially Responsible Investment funds, is to back Proposal 4, both to promote a visionary new model of co-operative ownership for Twitter.”

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