Twitter users put Elon Musk to the test with racist and hateful messages | Technology
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Journalists stand guard outside Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Suddenly, two men appear with cardboard boxes and their belongings inside. One shows a book by Michelle Obama, as if it were the cause of her firing. When a journalist asks her name, she tells him her name is Rahul Ligma. But no, they are not workers fired by Elon Musk. They are two trolls who deceive prestigious media such as CNBC or Bloomberg, which publish news about them without falling into the idea that Ligma is a dirty meme. Musk laughs at them: “They asked for it.”
The land was paid. Not only has he been airing that he plans massive staff cuts, but also the first decision of the 51-year-old billionaire tycoon born in Pretoria (South Africa) was to fire the main managers of Twitter. Among the first four Musk has had their heads lopped off is Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde, in charge of Twitter’s content moderation policy, of which Musk has been highly critical.
Musk proclaims himself a “free speech absolutist.” Some users are already putting it to the test. The day after closing the operation, the use of the floor Nigger, the derogatory and racist way of referring to African Americans skyrocketed. Far-right users began to spread QAnon messages, a great generator of conspiracy theories. The Anti-Defamation League has detected a coordinated campaign to publish anti-Semitic messages after the closing of the operation. This Friday he denounced that more than 1,200 tweets and retweets had been spread in this regard. The origin of the campaign came from the marginal 4chan, widely used by extremists due to its virtual absence of controls, and spread through Telegram channels in order to take that hate speech to Twitter. “Other users have posted long lists of phrases and topics that Twitter has removed in the past, such as election denial, COVID misinformation, and defamation of public figures,” added the League.
The billionaire buyer of Twitter launched a message on Thursday to try to reassure advertisers, who can flee from the social network if it becomes a jungle full of racist content, hoaxes, insults and messages of hate and incitement to violence. “Obviously, Twitter cannot become a free-for-all hell where you can say anything without consequence. In addition to respecting the laws of the country, our platform must be warm and welcoming for everyone, where the desired experience can be chosen according to the preferences of each one”, He moved them in a message on Twitter.
General Motors withdraws
At the moment, he has already suffered his first setback. General Motors, the largest car manufacturer in the United States (and a rival to Tesla, controlled by Musk), announced this Friday that it is temporarily withdrawing advertising: “We are working with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under its new ownership. As is normal with a significant change in a media platform, we have temporarily paused our paid advertising. Our customer support interactions on Twitter will continue,” he noted in a statement.
Content moderation is essential for advertisers to be attracted to a social network. Companies do not want their advertising to accompany messages that could contaminate their brand image. Musk has decided to give himself some time. This Friday announced, again through the social network, that “Twitter will form a content moderation council with very diverse points of view.” “Before the council meets, no major decisions about content will be made or accounts will be reinstated.” And perhaps to try to drive away the ghosts that he is the cause of this boom in transgressive messages, later added: “To be super clear, we haven’t yet made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies.” It has not been necessary to change it so that the feeling that there is an open bar spreads.
With the creation of the council, of which neither the composition nor the term for issuing its opinion is known, Musk can postpone any decision until after the legislative elections on November 8 and avoid being accused of interfering in them. In general terms, Republicans have expressed their satisfaction with Musk’s purchase of Twitter. “Elon Musk has indicated that he will oppose Big Tech censorship and support free speech,” Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn tweeted. Some Democrats have expressed their displeasure and the loss of followers that the accounts of some progressive leaders have suffered appears to be due to the departure of many of them from the network.
The most notorious decision of the recently fired person in charge of moderation policies, Vijaya Gadde, was the expulsion (“permanent suspension”) of Donald Trump from the social network on January 8, 2021, two days after the assault on Capitol Hill by of insurgents who wanted to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential elections. Twitter alleged “risk of further incitement to violence.”
Trump does not plan to return
Musk made it clear that he planned to reinstate Trump as soon as he took control of the social network, but for now the former president gives him pumpkins. Trump wrote yesterday on Truth Social, his alternative to Twitter: “I am so glad that Twitter is now in safe hands, and will no longer be run by lunatics and maniacs from the radical left who truly hate our country.” But, after throwing flowers at him and saying that now he must get rid of bots and fake accounts, he made it clear that he is sticking with his own social network: “It will be much smaller, but better. I LOVE TRUTH!”
The truth is that Truth Social belongs to Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), of which Trump is president and founder. According to a brochure registered with the supervisor, the former president has agreed by contract to use that social network for all his messages and can only repeat them in others after six hours. Trump’s company would lose all value without him as a troublemaker.
Without waiting for the council to be created, the tycoon has already left a guideline: “Anyone suspended for lesser and dubious reasons will be released from Twitter jail.” How that is interpreted is another matter. The Anti-Defamation League has already made a list of people it considers dangerous to return to the network, in addition to Trump: “white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, white nationalist Nick Fuentes, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and misogynist Andrew Tate.”
The test for the speech of absolute freedom of expression of the new owner of Twitter is obviously not limited to the United States. Only a few hours after Musk declared the closure of the operation tweeting “the bird is free”, the Commissioner for the Internal Market of the European Union, Thierry Breton, replied: “In Europe, the bird flies according to our rules”.
However, it is not in Europe where the greatest problems will occur. Tesla, the company that has made Musk the richest man in the world, has a very important presence in China, where there is no freedom of expression and skepticism that the tycoon will defy Chinese censorship is widespread. The same goes for other countries. Saudi prince Al Waleed bin Talal has become the second shareholder of Twitter, by converting its previous stake, valued at $1.89 billion, to the offer price, as it had previously announced. Among the partners that accompany Musk are also a sovereign fund from Qatar and another from Dubai venture capital. Freedom of expression is not very absolute in those countries.
In his message to advertisers, the billionaire said he didn’t buy Twitter to make money. At the moment, according to Bloomberg calculations, that he, along with Forbes it is the reference in the measurement of great fortunes, with the closing of the operation Musk has lost 10,000 million dollars, the overprice of his investment in the company. Vijaya Gadde, on the other hand, will receive compensation of 21 million for his dismissal.
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