A few billionaires have bought newspapers, magazines, or sports teams. Elon Musk is trying to buy a social network that he himself admits might cause much of the world to hate him.
Musk stated that “Everyone will still be blaming me for everything” during an interview on stage at the TED conference. This month, earlier. If I take over Twitter, and it goes wrong 100% of the time, that’s my fault. There will most likely be many errors.
It sounds promising. So why exactly does the world’s richest man — who is already running multiple companies with ambitious goals like taking humans to Mars — want to buy Twitter, a social media platform which, for all its benefits, is facing scrutiny for content issues like hate speech and misinformation, and also fighting to reignite user growth?
In recent days, Musk repeatedly stated that his aim is to increase free speech and unlock Twitter’s “extraordinary potential.” Others have suggested that Musk — who has 83 million followers on Twitter and has long used it to bolster his personal brand — may be more interested in boosting attention for himself.
Musk said that his goal with the Twitter offering is protecting civilization as it stands today. Musk stated at the TED conference, “My intuitive intuition is that having a publicly accessible platform that is maximumly trusted and inclusive is essential to the future civilization.”
Musk plans to open the algorithm and make it transparent for users when tweets are emphasized, deemphasized, or moved in their feed. Also, Musk stated that he wanted to encourage more moderate content moderators. Musk expressed concern that people should not delete material and would prefer to use timeouts rather than permanent bans.
But it is not obvious that his plans will be any different than Twitter’s already established strategy. Although Twitter’s algorithm is not currently open source — a term that describes code that is publicly available for anyone to see — leaders at Twitter have expressed support for moving in that direction, and the company often makes clear when it is demoting certain tweets or types of content. Twitter also chose to label, instead of removing all of the problematic content, which includes misinformation. And it offers several short suspensions to users who violate its rules before removing them.
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