Tesla CEO Elon Musk has some bold, if still vague, plans to turn Twitter into a place of “maximum fun” when he buys the social media platform for $44 billion and takes it private.
But implementing what at the moment is little more than a mix of vague theories and technical details may be a lot more complicated than he suggests.
Here’s what could happen if Musk follows through on his ideas about free speech, fighting spam, and opening up the “black box” of artificial intelligence tools that fuel social media trends.
free speech town square
Musk’s biggest priority—but along with the most vague roadmap—is to make Twitter a “politically neutral” digital town square for world discourse that allows as much free speech as each country’s laws allow. gives.
He has acknowledged that his plan to reshape Twitter could anger the political left and please the most right. He hasn’t clarified what he will do about the permanently banned account of former President Donald Trump or other right-wing leaders whose tweets have moved away from the company’s restrictions against hate speech, violent threats or harmful misinformation.
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Should Musk go in this direction, it could mean bringing back not only Trump, but “many, many others who were fired as a result of the QAnon conspiracies, targeted harassment of journalists and activists, and certainly all those accounts that were deleted after Jan. 6,” said Joan Donovan, who studies misinformation at Harvard University. “It could potentially be hundreds of thousands of people.”
Musk has not ruled out suspending some accounts, but says such restrictions should be temporary. His latest criticism centered around a New York Post article on Hunter Biden describing Twitter’s “incredibly unfair” 2020, which the company said was a mistake and corrected it within 24 hours. had gone.
Musk’s long-standing interest in AI is reflected in one of the most distinctive proposals, which he outlined in his merger announcement _ a promise to “make algorithms open source to increase trust.” He’s talking about systems that rank content to decide what appears on users’ feeds.
Partly driving distrust, at least for Musk supporters, is the lore among American political conservatives about “shadow bans” on social media. It’s an invisible feature to reduce access to poorly behaved users’ accounts without disabling them. There is no evidence that Twitter’s platform is biased against conservatives; Studies have found the opposite when it comes to conservative media in particular.
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Musk has called for the coders to post the underlying computer code powering Twitter’s news feed for public inspection on the Hangout GitHub. But this kind of “code-level transparency” gives users little idea of how Twitter is working for them, without the data algorithms are processing, said computer scientist Nick Diakopoulos of Northwestern University.
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DiCopoulos said Musk’s broader goal is to help people with good intentions to find out why his tweets were promoted or demoted and whether human moderators or automated systems are making those choices. But this is no easy task. For example, too much transparency about how individual tweets are ranked could make it easier for “abusive people” to game the system and manipulate algorithms to get maximum exposure for their cause, Diakopoulos said.
‘Defeating Spam Bots’
“Spam bots” that mimic real people have been a personal nuisance to Musk, whose popularity on Twitter has inspired countless impersonation accounts that use his image and name _often to promote cryptocurrency scams. For what looks like they’re coming from the CEO of Tesla.
Certainly, Twitter users, Musk among them, “don’t want spam,” said David Greene, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of civil liberties. But who defines what counts as a spam bot?
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“Do you mean like all bots, you know, if I follow a Twitter bot that just takes historical pictures of fruits? I choose to follow that. Isn’t that allowed to exist?” They said.
There are plenty of spam-filled Twitter accounts at least partly run by real people that range from those selling products to those promoting the polarization of political content to meddling in elections in other countries. run.
‘Certify all human beings’
Musk has repeatedly stated that he wants Twitter to “certify all humans”, a vague proposition that may be related to his desire to rid the website of spam accounts.
Speeding up mundane identity checks _ such as two-factor authentication or popups that ask which of the six photos shows a school bus _ can discourage anyone from trying to assemble an army of fake accounts.
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Musk may also consider giving more people a “blue check” _ notable Twitter accounts sported verification checkmarks _ like Musk _ to show that they are who they say they are. Musk suggests that users can purchase Checkmark as part of the premium service.
But some digital rights activists are concerned that these measures could lead to a “real name” policy, similar to Facebook’s approach, forcing people to validate their full names and use them in their profiles. goes. This appears to contradict Musk’s free speech focus by silencing unknown whistleblowers or people living under authoritarian regimes, where it can be dangerous if a dissenting message is caused by a particular individual.
Musk has floated the idea of an ad-free Twitter, although it was not one of the priorities outlined in the official merger announcement. This may be because even for the world’s richest man, eliminating the company’s main way of making money would be a tall order.
Ads accounted for more than 92% of Twitter’s revenue in the January-March fiscal quarter. The company last year launched a premium subscription service known as Twitter Blue, but it doesn’t seem to have made much progress in getting people to pay for it.
Musk has clarified that he supports a strong subscription-based model for Twitter that gives more people an ad-free alternative. It would also fit into their push to ease Twitter’s content restrictions _ which brands prefer largely because they don’t want their ads to be surrounded by offensive and hate-filled tweets.
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Musk has tweeted and voiced so many proposals for Twitter that it can be hard to know which ones he takes seriously. He joins the popular call for an “edit button” _ which Twitter says is already working _ that would enable people to fix a tweet as soon as it’s posted. A less serious proposal from Musk suggested turning Twitter’s downtown San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter “because no one shows up anyway” _more on Twitter’s pandemic-era workforce than a philanthropic vision for the building Taken more as a comment.
Musk did not return an email request to clarify his plans.
© 2022 Associated Press