Twitter: All talk and no action on social responsibility

The San Francisco Bay Guardian (SFBG), a local newspaper, has published an editorial that recommends the city government not give tax breaks to Twitter.

The SFBG reports that Twitter “is threatening to leave San Francisco and take 350 employees to a new headquarters in Brisbane.”

The move might be avoided if city officials come up with a favourable tax plan:

“The latest plans call for a payroll tax exemption that would cap the company’s future tax bills at US$250 000.”

The SFBG calls it “corporate blackmail.”

This is all a bit much.

When I went to see Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone at the Inforum Club in October, they spoke a lot about how social responsibility is very important to Twitter.

It felt disingenuous, it felt as if it was “bolted on” for PR value.

It seems my instincts weren’t wrong.

How does Twitter square away its PR about it being a socially responsible company yet threaten to leave San Francisco unless it gets a tax break?

Those taxes are part of its social responsibility to the local community.

Clearly at Twitter, chatter about social responsibility is more important than actual social responsibility.

Social responsibility can’t be tweeted. Let’s see it in action. Pay your local taxes, Twitter.

San Francisco should call Twitter’s bluff and let it move to Brisbane, to a site shared with Wal-Mart. It’ll have a big problem trying to recruit engineers to work in Brisbane. And that will cost it far more than its savings on taxes.



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