What will Elon Musk do with Twitter | Technology
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Twitter’s board of directors has finally decided to sell the company to Elon Musk, the world’s richest man and CEO of Tesla. On Twitter, the network of conversation, the personality of the new owner has provoked a huge debate and several global trends. There are those who believe that Musk will take the company to new goals, there are those who believe that the only alternative is to flee Twitter forever and there are few who do not speak out.
But the future is likely to be somewhat milder.
Musk’s own speech about Twitter is that he buys it to improve it, not for money or influence. The biggest analysis of his purchase was made on April 14 in a TED talk, the same day his offer was made public. His thesis is that Twitter needed more clarity in the rules, more transparency in the algorithms and more freedom in speech. Details were, however, scant.
His great intention, always according to his words, is to save democracy: “It is very important that there is an inclusive scenario for freedom of expression,” he said. “Twitter has become a kind of de facto public square, so it’s really important that people believe and perceive that they can speak freely within the confines of the law,” he added.
This resource is essential both for “the functioning of democracy in the US and in many other countries,” he said.
For less doubt, the Twitter algorithm should be posted on GitHub, the open source platform, and other programmers should be able to make comments and suggestions, “just like Linux and Signal,” he said. Users also need to be fully aware of why decisions are being made: Any action on why a tweet is promoted or not “must be obvious, so there’s no behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmic or manual,” he added.
I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
On freedom of expression, he admitted to being “absolutist” and said that shouting fire in a full theater “should be a crime.” The way he found to define what it is to defend freedom of expression was this: “A good sign of freedom of expression is that someone you don’t like can say something you don’t like. If that is so, we have free speech,” he said.
Behind that sentence, journalists have brought up numerous examples of times when Musk tried to silence or limit the speech of someone he doesn’t like, such as when he called a Thai cave diver a “pedophile”, when he chased and spied on a former employee for speaking to the press or when he blocked a Florida youth account that was posting all of Musk’s flights on Twitter.
No clue if Musk will make Twitter worse, but anyone who believes Musk cares about protecting speech please hmu I have some exciting bridges I’d like to sell you! pic.twitter.com/p7XfnOhOYE
— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) April 25, 2022
This is when the real debate begins about what it means for the richest person in the world to be able to do what they want with one of the main communication platforms. This purchase is not Jeff Bezos acquiring the Washington Post or Rupert Murdoch, the Wall Street Journal. When asked why he thought the richest person would buy Twitter, his response was to laugh at Mark Zuckerberg: “You have Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp with a structure that would allow Mark Zuckerberg XIV to remain the owner. That won’t happen with Twitter,” he said. But that answer does not prevent admitting that he now uses it for the benefit of Elon Musk.
Before evaluating how, he said that he was not doing it for money: “My intuition is that having a platform that is trusted by all, inclusive, is extremely important for the future of civilization. I don’t care about the money,” she said. One thing is that he doesn’t care about the money and the other is that he doesn’t perceive ways to exploit the benefits of Twitter, apart from precisely controlling a tool that has given him a lot. His tweets about Tesla, SpaceX and even the dogecoin cryptocurrency have made him richer.
Permanent access to such a platform, and maintaining its influence, is essential. Few understand the importance of attention today like Musk. Twitter has ten times fewer users than Facebook, YouTube or Instagram, but its weight is not proportionally lower.
Here we come to the current policy. In the TED talk he said about permanent bans: “I don’t know if I have all the answers, but I think it would be better to be reluctant to remove things and be cautious about permanent bans. I think temporary suspensions are better than permanent bans.” The most famous suspension from Twitter is Donald Trump. His hypothetical return to Twitter in 2022 would be the departure of his candidacy for president in 2024. In the Republican Party they welcome his arrival on Twitter.
Musk may want to return his account to Trump as a sign of freedom of expression, but it would also be clear that he would be doing him a favor that the hypothetical future president of the United States could return with his power in Washington in favor of Tesla, SpaceX or his problems with the Securities and Market Commission. As with Trump, other governments could aspire to use Twitter more freely or without labels as “state media.” If it’s something, like in China, that could harm Tesla’s interests, the conflict of interest would be obvious. Suspicions about Twitter’s decisions will be pinned on Musk, for better and for worse. It is likely that he already has it well thought out.
In his talk, Musk said that he will not edit “tweets personally” to explain why a tweet does or does not comply with the laws of a country, which is the criteria that was imposed. But it will be difficult to doubt that the relevant decisions do not pass through his hands.
Within Twitter, a company accustomed to public disturbances, the atmosphere was even more tense than on other occasions. Aside from all the public debate about Musk, one of his well-earned fame is pushing his companies toward excellence in exchange for tough business organization. His legend about how he slept in the Tesla plant in the most difficult days of the company is famous. At Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, the shock can be especially noticeable.
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