Tesla CEO Elon Musk has laid out some bold, if still vague, plans to turn Twitter into a place of “maximum fun” once he bought the social media platform for $44 billion, going private, according to an Associated Press report.
Square “Freedom of Expression”
Musk’s most exciting priority, he says, is to make Twitter a “politically neutral” digital arena for global discourse that allows freedom of expression as much as each country’s laws allow.
He has admitted that his plans to reshape Twitter could anger the political left and often satisfy the right.
He did not specify exactly what he would do about the permanently banned account of former President Donald Trump or other right-wing leaders whose tweets run counter to the company’s restrictions against hate speech, violent threats or harmful misinformation.
If Musk goes in that direction, it could mean reinstating not just Trump’s account, but “many other accounts that have been removed as a result of their promotion of QAnon plots, harassment of journalists and activists, and of course all accounts removed after January 6th,” Joan said. Donovan, who studies disinformation at Harvard University. “This could be hundreds of thousands of people.”
Musk has not ruled out suspending some accounts, but says such a ban should be temporary.
His recent criticism centered around what he called the “incredibly inappropriate” 2020 Twitter blocking of a New York Post article on Hunter Biden, which the company said was a mistake and was corrected within 24 hours.
Musk’s long-standing 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 called for the underlying computer code running the Twitter news page to be published for public inspection on the programmer’s GitHub. But such code-level transparency gives users little insight into how Twitter is working for them without the data being processed by algorithms, Diakopoulos, a Northwestern University computer scientist, tells the agency.
Diakopoulos said there is good intentions in Musk’s broader 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 this is not an easy task.
Too much transparency about how individual tweets are classified, for example, Diakopoulos said, could make it easier for “scammers” to manipulate the system and tamper with the algorithm.
Defeat spam bots
“Spam bots” mimicking real people have been a personal annoyance for Musk, whose Twitter popularity has inspired countless impersonator accounts that use his picture and name – often to promote cryptocurrency scams that look as if they were coming from the CEO of Tesla.
Certainly, 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-ridden Twitter accounts that are at least partially managed by real people who run chains from those selling products to those promoting political content to interfere with other countries’ politics.
“Befriend all people”
Musk has said repeatedly that he wants Twitter to “befriend all humans,” a vague proposal that may be related to his desire to rid the site of spam accounts.
The agency says ramping up personal identity checks – such as two-factor authentication – could discourage anyone from trying to amass an army of fake accounts.
Musk might also consider introducing a “blue check” to more people to show they’re real, and Musk suggested that users could buy checkmarks as part of a premium service.
But some digital rights activists worry that these measures could lead to a “real name” policy similar to Facebook’s approach of forcing people to validate their full names and use them in their profiles.
This appears to contradict Musk’s focus on free speech by silencing anonymous whistleblowers or people living under authoritarian regimes where it can be dangerous if the message is traced back to the sender.
Twitter free from ads?
Musk floated the idea of ad-free Twitter, even though it wasn’t one of the priorities identified in the official merger announcement.
This may be because stopping the company’s main way of making money would be daunting, even for the richest person in the world.
Ads made up more than 92 percent 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 appear to have made much progress in getting people to pay for it.
Musk has made it clear that he prefers a more robust Twitter opt-in model that gives more people an ad-free option.
That would also fit in with his efforts to loosen content restrictions on Twitter – which brands largely prefer because they don’t want their ads to be surrounded by hateful and offensive tweets.
Musk has tweeted and voiced so many suggestions to Twitter that it can be difficult to know which ones he takes seriously.
He joined the popular call for an “edit tweet button” – which Twitter says it’s already working on – that would enable people to edit a tweet shortly 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 “no one comes in anyway” and Musk did not respond to an email request from the agency to explain his plans.