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Billionaire Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey Takes on China

The serial entrepreneur isn't afraid to speak his mind, to powerful people and governments.
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Jack Dorsey speaks little, but when he does, he does not hesitate to attack the powerful. 

The founder of microblogging website Twitter  (TWTR)  last June decided to work on a new generation of decentralized internet that would escape the control of big tech -- Alphabet's Google  (GOOGL)  and Meta's  (META)  Facebook -- and venture capital firms. 

This decision came after a verbal confrontation on Twitter with legendary VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. 

Web 3, the new iteration of the internet, is “somewhere between a and z,” Dorsey wrote in December, referring to a16Z, a shorthand for Andreessen Horowitz. 

He meant that since a16Z is one of the main firms financing web3 projects, we would simply go from an internet controlled by Google, Meta, and others to an internet dominated by VCs. Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner at a16z, then blocked Dorsey on Twitter.

Andreessen, who also co-founded the early internet platform Netscape and was an early investor in Facebook, has been an early backer of web 3. He has already invested more than $3 billion into various crypto and web 3 startups. 

'End the CCP'

Dorsey has now turned his attention, and a strong point of view, to the Chinese Communist Party. 

The serial entrepreneur posted a tweet on Twitter in which he calls for the end of the Chinese Communist Party. 

The billionaire accompanied his tweet with a link to a June report by a CNN journalist, Selina Wang, reporting on the changes in the daily life of the inhabitants of Beijing caused by China's mandatory health-tracking app, which was launched to slow the spread of covid-19.

"End the CCP," Dorsey wrote, without elaborating.

In the report shared on Twitter, Wang recounts that Beijing's "relentless Covid testing & health app that dictates where I go."

"Green code is needed to enter public areas. Red means quarantine/isolation. Authorities track people's movements thru these apps. Concern is this surveillance will stay long after covid is gone." the reporter said

"After more than two years of these on and off restrictions, people are getting frustrated," she said in the report. "Every part of our days are tracked and surveilled."

China has put in place some of the toughest restrictions in the name of "zero covid." Lockdowns have been put in place in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Health apps, which are mandatory in China, show users a "green code" if they are allowed to travel and a "red code" if they must immediately self-isolate or enter quarantine.

But critics have warned that Chinese authorities are using health apps to crack down on dissent.

Can China Retaliate?

It's hard to know what prompted Dorsey to speak out about the CCP's actions. But his tweet comes amid high tension between the U.S. and China over Taiwan. Beijing recently conducted military drills, including a mock attack on Taiwan, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island. 

Dorsey has not been CEO of Twitter since last November. During his tenure as CEO, the platform, which is banned in China, has faced disinformation operations backed by the Chinese government. 

In 2020, the company thus removed nearly 174,000 fake, or bot, accounts "for various violations of our platform manipulation policies," Twitter said at the time.

"In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities," Twitter said in a blog post on June 12, 2020. 

"They were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong."

In general, Dorsey does not risk reprisals from Beijing because he does not really do business in China. That's unlike Elon Musk -- a friend of Dorsey -- and Tesla,  (TSLA)  for which the country is crucial.

Dorsey, who stepped down from Twitter's board in May, is focusing on his company Block  (SQ) , formerly Square. This payment-services company, which also owns the Cash app, is not present in China. 

And even bitcoin, one of the tech mogul's passions, is no longer welcome in the country. Basically, what Dorsey said can't affect his business.