Tesla CEO Elon Musk has laid out bold, if still vague, plans to turn Twitter into a place of “maximum fun” once he buys the social media platform for $44 billion, in going private, according to an Associated Press report.
Place “Freedom of expression”
Musk’s most exciting priority, he says, is to make Twitter a “politically neutral” digital arena for global discourse that allows free speech as much as each country’s laws allow.
He admitted that his plans to overhaul Twitter could irritate the political left and often satisfy the right.
He did not say exactly what he would do with the permanently banned account of former President Donald Trump or other right-wing leaders whose tweets violate the company’s restrictions against hate speech, violent threats or harmful misinformation.
If Musk goes in that direction, it could mean restoring not just Trump’s account, but “many other accounts that were taken down following their promotion of QAnon conspiracies, harassment of journalists and activists, and of course all accounts deleted after January 6. “, said Joan. Donovan, who studies disinformation at Harvard University. “It could be hundreds of thousands of people.
Musk hasn’t ruled out suspending some accounts, but says any such ban should be temporary.
His recent criticism centered on what he called an “incredibly inappropriate” 2020 Twitter blocking of a New York Post article about Hunter Biden, which the company said was a mistake and was corrected within 24 hours.
Musk’s longstanding interest in artificial intelligence is reflected in one of the most visible proposals he outlined in the merger announcement to “make algorithms open source to increase trust.”
Musk is talking here about systems that categorize content to determine what appears in users’ feeds.
Musk requested that the underlying computer code running the Twitter news page be released for public inspection on the programmer’s GitHub. But such code-level transparency gives users little insight into how Twitter works for them without the data being processed by algorithms, Diakopoulos, a computer scientist at Northwestern University, told the agency.
Diakopoulos said there are good intentions in Musk’s larger goal of helping people understand why their tweets are being promoted or downgraded and whether human moderators or automated systems are making those choices. But it is not an easy task.
Too much transparency about how individual tweets are ranked, for example, Diakopoulos said, could make it easier for “crooks” to manipulate the system and tamper with the algorithm.
“Spam bots” impersonating real people have been a personal annoyance for Musk, whose popularity on Twitter has inspired countless accounts of impersonators who use his photo and name – often to promote cryptocurrency scams that seem to come from the CEO of Tesla.
Granted, Twitter users, including Musk, “don’t want spam,” said David Green, director of civil liberties at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
But who defines what counts as a robot?
There are also plenty of spam-infested Twitter accounts that are at least partially run by real people who run channels ranging from those selling products to those promoting political content to interfere with the politics of other countries.
Musk has repeatedly said he wants Twitter to “befriend all humans,” a vague proposition that may be related to his desire to rid the site of spam accounts.
The agency says stepping up personal identity checks — such as two-factor authentication — could discourage anyone from trying to build an army of fake accounts.
Musk might also consider introducing a “blue tick” to more people to show they’re real, and Musk suggested that users could purchase ticks as part of a premium service.
But some digital rights activists fear the moves could lead to a “real name” policy similar to Facebook’s approach of requiring people to validate their full names and use them in their profiles.
This appears to contradict Musk’s emphasis on free speech by silencing anonymous whistleblowers or people living under authoritarian regimes where it can be dangerous if the message goes back to the sender.
Twitter without ads?
Musk floated the idea of an ad-free Twitter, even though it wasn’t one of the priorities identified in the official merger announcement.
This may be because quitting the main way of making money from the business would be daunting even for the richest person in the world.
Ads accounted for more than 92% of Twitter’s revenue in the January-March fiscal quarter.
Last year the company launched a premium subscription service – known as Twitter Blue – but it doesn’t seem to have made much headway in getting people to pay.
Musk has made it clear that he prefers a more robust Twitter opt-in model that gives more people an ad-free option.
It would also fit in with its efforts to loosen content restrictions on Twitter — something brands largely prefer because they don’t want their ads surrounded by hateful and offensive tweets.
Musk has tweeted and voiced so many suggestions on Twitter that it can be hard to know which ones he’s taking seriously.
He joined the popular call for a “tweet edit button” – which Twitter says it is already working on – that would allow people to edit a tweet soon after it was posted.
He also made a less serious suggestion that Twitter’s downtown San Francisco headquarters be converted into a homeless shelter because “nobody’s coming in anyway” and Musk didn’t respond to a e-mail request from the agency to explain its plans.