Eleven questions to clarify the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk | Technology
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Twitter will have a new owner. It is the great economic-technological story of the year. Not much is known specifically yet, but Elon Musk is at least tweeting and tweeting. I have tried to answer 11 questions that they ask me and I ask myself about all this mess.
1. Why hasn’t anything happened on Twitter yet?
Because Musk is not the official owner yet. And it will take several months.
Twitter’s board of directors has decided that it will sell the company to Musk. Musk has the financing to pay. But Musk can back out, albeit he would pay a $1 billion penalty, and Twitter can find another buyer.
It is clearly unlikely: a calculation from the shares apparently gives an 84% chance that he will go ahead. But some at Reuters are betting that Musk will back down for fear of losing too much money or being affected by Twitter in his relationship with China. But Musk being Musk, it is imaginable that he finished it buying just to spite the headline from Reuters. Although if he doesn’t, it would be the ultimate trolling.
2. But are there users who have already left Twitter?
Yes. And others have arrived.
A couple of US media have published research that has detected the growth of celebrity conservative accounts and the loss of followers in progressive accounts. Twitter has confirmed that everything is organic: users who arrive and others who leave.
It’s a drop in the bucket, a few thousand accounts in more than 200 million daily users. But it may be the Musk effect. Musk himself believes that every medium of the world has talked about the purchase and we have done a lot of free publicity. Those new users could be rather conservatives who return or have heard that Twitter will be “different.” Those who have left would be rather progressive users, but it is speculation.
Barack Obama had gained followers every day in April and has lost more than 300,000 since Monday’s announcement. Trump congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had 539,000 and 24 hours later she reached 632,000.
3. Why do progressives hate Musk?
Musk is not your typical rich man who espouses outdated industries or religious values. He actually runs the company that has revolutionized electric cars, he’s had multiple wives and some of his kids are called the craziest names possible.
But there are two substantial reasons for progressivism to have objections: it is too rich and it flirts with Donald Trump and with the anti-government hordes. woke up from Twitter. He said, for example, that Netflix’s problem was not competition but its mega-progressive culture. She has launched a meme and a couple of tweets against the legal head of Twitter, Vijaye Gadde, who is supposedly the representative of the progressive culture of Twitter. And she laughs the thanks of every Conservative leader who complains about the current Twitter.
But he also laughs at Trump and proposes calling his Truth Social network “Trumpet.” “It’s a great name,” he says. Being Musk can be a business strategy to attract more users, a real belief or joke.
4. Why is Musk so popular?
It is rare to see someone so rich and so popular talking nonstop nonsense, as if he were a colleague on WhatsApp. It can be a trait that goes down well.
When he says that he will buy Coca-Cola to put cocaine in it, it is a joke, but it would be potentially more possible for him than for the 3.5 million people who have liked that tweet.
Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 28, 2022
The purchase of Twitter has raised several steps in its ability to influence and laugh at all of us. Could this be one of your reasons for wanting to buy Twitter? May.
5. Do you already know why you actually bought it?
It will be for theories. I have read of all colors.
There are two main currents, centered on Twitter going wrong. One, Musk buys it to grow its potential and make more money. In another, he buys it for some philanthropic reason that has to do with free speech and improving our democracies.
Both sound insufficient but there is probably something to that. Even if you are the richest in the world, you still need a good handful of reasons to get into a garden of 44 billion dollars.
There are even those who say that he has bought it to keep it as is, because this Twitter is where he has succeeded and has made money talking about Tesla, SpaceX, Boring Company and Neurolink, his companies. Same yes.
6. Wasn’t it because of the famous freedom of expression?
If we go by what he says, yes.
Musk set a couple of days this tweet on his account: “By ‘freedom of expression’ I simply mean what is in accordance with the law. I am against censorship that goes beyond the law. If people want less freedom of expression, they will ask the government to pass laws for it. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”
These phrases are very nice on Twitter, but for a global platform it is a huge mess. First, because for example in Japan and India, Twitter’s largest markets after the US, they have different laws. Second, because even in the US, a government law is not the same as community standards for platforms that did not exist two decades ago.
“Freedom of expression without restrictions does not mean that it is a more real version of freedom of expression. It just means you’re making an island and letting the kids run wild like in ‘Lord of the Flies’. A well-regulated and predictable environment of expression is best for freedom of expression,” says Professor Kate Klonick in the NYTimes.
They put us all on a field to play soccer. There is Messi, there is me, there is Taylor Swift and thousands of strangers. We all have the right to play, but it is clear who knows more. It would be nice to enjoy it. But then many people arrive who push, insult, pinch, threaten whoever marks. There has to be a referee. As every fan of any sport knows, the rules are flexible. The referee applies them. Musk will now be a “play on” supporter, but that’s easy to say and hard to do. Every day there will be thousands of plays, fouls, penalties. Some will be more obvious than others.
Musk’s response is “we will publicly explain each decision.” It will also be a hassle because we are quite incapable of accepting what another says if we don’t like what they say. Twitter, and other social networks, are the ultimate example of that.
All that said, this is just one of Musk’s Twitter challenges. It is likely that he has ideas that we do not know about, that even minimize this problem. Even if they raise others. For example, its relationship with freedom of expression when it affects their companies is very different.
7. Why is improving a social network like Twitter so complicated?
One of the things that Musk has said to calm liberals is that “his Twitter” will hurt the most extreme 10%, both on the left and on the right.
A social media platform’s policies are good if the most extreme 10% on left and right are equally unhappy
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 19, 2022
They are those affirmations, like freedom of expression, that are beautiful when they are said but difficult to execute. Professor Chris Bailey Reply to Musk here: “It’s a compelling idea, but 6% of Twitter users currently generate around 76% of all political content on the platform, and that 6% is overwhelmingly on the extremes.”
Perhaps Musk will make more money from Twitter and his ideas, but this conviction that fixing something like Twitter is easy is not credible.
8. What do you mean by “authenticate all humans”?
In each question I feel that I must interpret a biblical prophecy with multiple options. This sentence comes of the statement that Musk published following the official announcement on Monday. It was a lot of verbiage and this phrase stood out, which has at least three options: authenticate with the blue signal anyone who wants to send an official document to Twitter, eliminate anonymity by requesting official documentation from “all” users, or try to eliminate automated bots requesting something or running some captcha for each tweet.
It may be none of the three, or Musk may be forgotten forever. But it’s still the first. Or the third. Or a mix of the two.
9. And what about the open protocol?
Another of the great mysteries, although this one has more history because the co-founder Jack Dorsey promoted an organization blue sky call working on turning Twitter into an open protocol. The objective would not be so much to see the entrails of the algorithm to be able to take advantage of it, but to be able to create external algorithms that offer other ways of consuming Twitter: select by types of tweets, tweeters, debates, virality and that everything could be mixed. Again, we’ll see.
10. Will the day-to-day life of Twitter users change?
Not for the moment. Later, probably yes. But Musk must not be foolish enough to swerve millions of users. If you publish the protocol, copying Twitter would be easy and fast. In the end, the great advantage of Twitter is that we are all online.
The whole freedom of expression thing can make it a platform where there is more content on the limits of disinformation and harassment. But no one can say that today is a healthy platform, although many efforts have been made. It remains to be seen if Musk wants to retrace that path, beyond allowing the return of some character like Donald Trump (who has said that he does not want to return) or erasing some sentence from the community norms.
11. Some thoughts to close in three tweets
In all the hours that I have been watching what is being said about Musk and Twitter, these three tweets have seemed especially shocking to me, for different reasons. I put them here to leave several reflections.
Yishan is a co-founder of Reddit, a social network with its huge free speech issues. He has made another less viral thread. I’m left with this tweet: “The key idea here is: all speech is also behavior. You already know: we were taught when you were young to use our “inner voice” because if we YELL ALL THE TIME, no one else can have a conversation. And that is bad for freedom of expression.”
And then as you get even older you realize that the world is held together with bubblegum and paper clips and more resembles a toddler’s playroom than a well oiled machine. Either that liberates or frightens you. https://t.co/HsrcO3VQOO
— Rumman Chowdhury (@ruchowdh) April 1, 2022
Rumman Chowdhury, Director of Ethics at machine learning, Twitter Accountability and Transparency, wrote in early April: “And then as you get older you realize the world is held together by gum and paper clips and is more like a toddler’s playroom than to a well-oiled machine. Either that liberates you or it scares you.” In other words, there are no big plans. At least on Twitter.
In it Guardian they rescue this wonderful tweet from 2016 that says more about us than the social media algorithm: “Much of the internet is 10,000 people harassing someone who maybe deserves to be harassed by 1-3 people.”
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