Elon Musk at the Crossroads. Acquiring Twitter leads to all sorts of conflicts of interest

Elon Musk at the Crossroads.  Acquiring Twitter leads to all sorts of conflicts of interest

Elon Musk at the Crossroads. Acquiring Twitter leads to all sorts of conflicts of interest

Billionaire promises to make speech more free in networks, which is a difficult task to achieve

Economist

The acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk raises doubts about a possible conflict of interest, mainly in China, where Tesla is trying to grow, but at the same time the social network faces many restrictions.
The acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk raises doubts about a possible conflict of interest, mainly in China, where Tesla is trying to grow, but at the same time the social network faces many restrictions.

Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, called Twitter a “de facto public square.” On April 25, he reached an agreement that it would be a private ransom with one of the greatest levers in history. Musk, the head of companies, including automaker Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX, has put together a full cash offer worth about $ 44 billion. Musk himself provides a large portion of the financing, in the form of $ 21 billion in equity and $ 12.5 billion in loans, to Tesla’s shares. If this is a big deal from a business standpoint, it could be even more of what it means to regulate online speech.

Twitter is clearly not an attractive business. With 217 million daily users, it is smaller than Facebook, the world’s largest social network, and far behind Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Its stock price has been rising over the years: last month it was lower than it was at the 2013 IPO.

But Musk is not as interested in Twitter as he is in business. “I’m not interested in economics at all,” he told a TED conference earlier this month. “It is only my strong, intuitive feeling that the existence of a public platform that is highly credible and widely inclusive is extremely important for the future of civilization.”

His willingness to spend much of his fortune to make Twitter more “inclusive” followed a period when he tightened his content moderation. Ten years ago, Twitter executives joked that the company was the “wing of the Freedom of Speech Party.” But the Donald Trump presidency and the Covid-19 pandemic have convinced the company (and most other social networks) that freedom of speech had some downsides. Trump has finally been banned from Twitter, as well as Facebook, YouTube and others, following the January 2021 Capitol riot. Misinformation about Covid and other topics was flagged and blocked. In the first half of 2021, Twitter deleted 5.9 million content, up from 1.9 million two years ago. During the same period, 1.2 million accounts were suspended, an increase of 700,000.

How could Musk change things? He said he would publish the Twitter code, including the recommendations algorithm, to make it more transparent. It offers authentication to all users and “defeat spam bots”. And he will be “very wary of permanent bans,” preferring “Time Out,” He told TED. It provides a breathing space for Trump and other banned politicians, backed by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which considers Musk to be one of the largest donors.

If Twitter takes a purist line on freedom of speech, then the winners could be its most critical rivals, suggests Evelyn Duke, an online speech expert at Harvard Law School. So far, major social networks have established policies for moderating similar content, each of which hates to be distinctive. “You can imagine Twitter where Trump returns to his platform with only headlines all day, every day, while other platforms sit back and eat popcorn,” he said.

It seems that Musk did not think about being in the headlines. And yet, you may find it harder than you expect to be in moderation. A boycott of advertisers, which provides almost all of Twitter’s revenue, may not bother you. But the Twitter app relies on the distribution of Apple and Google app stores; Both stopped after the Parler Capitol riot. Governments are also tightening laws on online speech. On April 23, the EU announced that it had agreed to a draft of a new law on digital services that would force social networks to have more tight control over speech on their platforms. Britain is preparing an even tougher online security bill. Twitter sent 43,000 requests to delete content under local law in the first half of 2021, more than double what it did two years ago.

Another question is whether Muskie will be able to uphold his own principles. Social networks face a conflict of interest when the people who set the policy for moderation are also responsible for growth, says Duek. Would Musk’s approach to free speech be influenced by his many other interests? Tesla, for example, hopes to expand into China, whose state-owned media receives well-known warning labels from Twitter. As a Twitter user, Musk has a history of using the platform in retaliation. He was sued (unsuccessfully) after being labeled an insult to an online enemy; And a few weeks ago, after a disagreement with Bill Gates, he posted an unusual picture of the Microsoft founder with the caption “In case you need a long loss”.

Musk insists that as the owner of the platform, he will be impartial. “I hope even my worst critics will stay on Twitter, because that is what freedom of speech means,” he wrote on Twitter on April 25, shortly before the company board agreed to his offer. Some users had other ideas: The same day the trend was “Trump Twitter”.

Economist

Source: La Nacion

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