July 7, 2022

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Elon Musk Twitter plans are a huge can of worms

7 min read
Elon Musk Twitter plans

Twitter has agreed to an offer for buyouts by Tesla along with SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk and SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk, triggering an entire day of intense speculation about one issue What is the best way for Musk planning to transform Twitter? Musk’s plans are a set of principles and features that could or may not want to pursue However, they are an ambiguous set of objectives and shifts which have been described only a few times — in any way.

Musk started his goals in a press release in line with previous statements he’s made regarding possible changes. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk declared. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spambots, and authenticating all humans.”
In the simplest terms, he has four key ideas to unlock Twitter’s full potential, and each one of them is a giant open-ended can of many worms. Let’s look at them in a single step.

FREE SPEECH

The internet is a minefield for speech and, If Musk truly wants to create an unrestricted Twitter all over the world, he can be in for a lot of fights in countries that ban things like hate speech or inaccurate information. However, Musk’s view on freedom of speech isn’t too worried about this. In a TED interview, he said the idea that Twitter must “match the laws of the country,” which suggests it could continue practices such as the region-locking of certain content, and also follow guidelines similar to the rules for social media in India.

Musk has a lot of freedom to change Twitter’s rules on what types of content can be banned obviously, and also the time that the users’ accounts are shut down. Musk has said he’d prefer to steer clear in favor of “time-outs” and leave borderline content on the platform. There has been speculation that this could bring the former president Donald Trump to the platform This isn’t a ridiculous assumption however Musk hasn’t made any statements about the matter publicly. (Trump has also said it wouldn’t be returning.)

There are several excellent descriptions of the ways Musk may decide to modify Twitter’s policies, and the risks they’d run into, such as from the Atlantic’s Charlie Warzel and TechDirt’s Mike Masnick. However, as of now, we don’t know much about the way Musk could alter Twitter’s policies on speech. Musk is likely to ask moderators to impose more bans and allow content that isn’t safe to use. The reality is that virtually every website which boasts”free speech” or a “free speech” banner ends in banning content that makes the customers, advertisers, or even the owners of the site themselves. So it’s too early to tell how far his commitment to free speech will be.

“OPEN SOURCE” ALGORITHMS

One of the areas Musk is concerned about is the use of recommendation algorithms to boost or lower the rank of tweets and accounts in ways that could be biased. Musk has suggested the publication of Twitter’s algorithmic sorting system on Github for the public to read and discuss to make something similar to”top tweets,” or the “top tweets” ranking system more plausible in theory.

Musk has stated that the algorithm will be “open-source,” however he’s not yet outlined specific plans to comply with the rules that come with an open-source license. So Musk could be referring to it in a less formal sense. Musk could also be talking about something that functions within the Twitter core app or through the separate, but publicly funded free source Bluesky project, which has distinct implications for Twitter’s core application.

Transparency is generally welcomed and twitter’s previous Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey has also suggested the users select between different recommendations systems. But, a lot of websites (including Google and Reddit) do not disclose the specifics of the way their systems function because they could give criminals and spammers an instruction manual for playing the system. The algorithm of Twitter doesn’t even explain how any specific tweet was ranked until Twitter publishes a large quantity of additional data and it doesn’t provide the reason for any human-based moderation that is interwoven with it. It would also be extremely vulnerable to those looking to create false claims by removing bits of it in a different context, then making up conspiracy theories about them.

In addition, Musk hasn’t described how the company would integrate suggestions by other readers or developers (which, in turn, is likely to include the involvement of several spammers into the algorithm of Twitter. Perhaps he’d follow his suggestion of Dorsey and let users fork the code to create their version of the Twitter recommendation system, transforming it into real open-source software? Perhaps he can set up a Facebook Oversight Board-style committee that will approve changes suggested by the committee? We’ll have to wait sometime.

SPAM AND SCAM BOTS

Musk has stated the notion that “spam and scam bots” as well as “bot armies” are Twitter’s new Public Enemy No. 1. It’s logical, considering that Musk is often the subject of fraudulent crypto-impersonators. What he’d do to control this, however, remains an open-ended question. Contrary to speech maximalism there’s nothing profoundly different with this — everyone hates spambots! Twitter already eliminates fraudulent accounts and has removed certain features that allow tweeting concurrently across multiple accounts. These features allow bots to tweet. So what can Musk improve?

Musk might have some sort of previously unannounced anti-spam program being developed, but there’s no evidence that he’s spent more time thinking about it than Twitter’s engineers have. (Again Twitter has plenty of reasons to stop the spam market already!) Also, Musk might choose to focus more heavily on blocking harmless automated account activity, shutting the Twitter API’s access, or degrading content created by people who behave like bots.

However, this goal will likely be in opposition to his desire for freedom of speech and openness. As I said that publishing the inside details of the amplification mechanism will also give spammers an array of tools to use. A strict crackdown on automation could shut down bots that provide important and useful services on Twitter — such as The Big Tech Alert, which monitors who Silicon Valley’s top gamers (including Musk) are following and not following, and editing TheGrayLady which reveals the way The New York Times changes their headlines, copy and headlines across time. Bots have been a long-running and popular feature of Twitter and distinguishing an excellent bot from a bad bot could be more difficult than Musk believes.

AUTHENTICATE ALL HUMANS?

The most bizarre and possibly the most controversial aspect of Musk’s Twitter pitch is in his final three words: “authenticating all humans.” Musk also made similar remarks on Twitter before the purchase, explaining the phrase to “authenticate all real humans,” as a result of a promise to stop bots. Musk hasn’t provided any specifics about the purpose of this authentication or how it will be accomplished.

“Authentication” could potentially mean several different aspects here. It could mean who must pass some form captcha-like “am I a human” test before posting however like banned spambots, if there was an easy method to accomplish this without affecting users who are in good faith, Twitter would probably have already implemented it. It could also be that people submit a form of identification that can prove they’re particular human beings to obtain the verification mark (something Musk has previously suggested) or even to be able to work with the service in any way.

Twitter has been a long-standing ally to allowing anonymous or pseudonymous speech, including sending legal briefs that argue for its benefits. The requirement that users de-anonymize their identities is a major breach of that promise. Even if the identity isn’t disclosed to others, obtaining details about real identities can provide an abundance of data that governments can request and it’s susceptible to security vulnerabilities or hacks. “There are no easy ways to require verification without wreaking havoc for some users, and for free speech,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted yesterday.

Musk often throws out strange ideas as a way to get attention So his remarks from yesterday might not end up reflecting the direction of the platform. If Twitter’s previous issues with moderation are any guide, however, each change is likely to create a new series of questions to be answered. The question to be answered is how much the company’s CEO Musk is in handling the consequences.

 

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