Wednesday, September 27, 2023

What does Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover mean for ‘free speech’?

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Shreya Christina
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In a surprise capitulation, the board of Twitter has announced that it is a takeover bid by Elon Musk, the world’s richest person. But is it in the public interest?

Musk is offering $54.20 per share. This values ​​the company at $44 billion (or A$61 billion) – making it one of the largest leveraged buyouts ever.

Morgan Stanley and other major financial institutions will lend him $25.5 billion. Musk himself will invest about 20 billion dollars. This is about the size of a single bonus he is expected to receive from Tesla.

In a letter to the chairman of Twitter, Musk claimed he would “unlock” Twitter’s “extraordinary potential” to be “the platform for free speech around the world.”

But the idea that social media has the potential to represent a rampant form of public discourse is supported by an idealistic understanding that surrounded by social media technologies for some time

In reality, Twitter is owned by one person, some of whom have been their own tweets falsesexistmarket moving and demonstrably defamatory poses a risk to the future of the platform.

Can Twitter Expect a Total Overhaul?

We see Musk’s latest move in a less favorable light, as it gives him unprecedented power and influence on Twitter. He has thought about making several possible changes to the platform, including:

  • reshuffle current managementin which he says he has no faith
  • add one edit button on tweets
  • toning down the current approach to content moderation, including by supporting temporary user suspensions rather than outright bans, and
  • potentially moving to a “freemium” model similar to Spotify’s, where users can pay to avoid more intrusive ads

Shortly after becoming Twitter’s largest individual shareholder earlier this month, said “I don’t care about the economy at all.”

But the bankers who lent him $25.5 billion to eventually acquire the platform probably do. Musk may come under pressure to increase Twitter’s profitability. He claims his top priority is freedom of expression, but would-be advertisers may not want their products displayed alongside an extremist rant.

In recent years, Twitter has launched a series of governance and content moderation policy. This is how it broadened its scope in 2020”definition of damage” to address COVID-19 content that contradicts guidelines from authoritative sources.

Twitter claims that developments in its approach to content moderation have been to “serve the public conversation” and address disinformation and disinformation† It also claims to respond to user experiences of abuse and general rudeness users have to navigate

Looking at the longer term, it seems that Twitter’s strengthening of content moderation could be seen as an attempt to salvage its reputation after extended recoil

Musk’s ‘town square’ idea won’t last

Regardless of Twitter’s motivations, Musk has openly challenged the growing number of moderation tools used by the platform.

He has even labeled Twitter a “de facto public square”. This statement seems naive at best. As a communication scientist and Microsoft researcher Tarleton Gillespie argues that the idea that social media platforms can function as truly open spaces is a fantasy, as platforms must moderate content while denying this process.

Gillespie further suggests that platforms have an obligation to moderate, to protect users from their opponents, to remove objectionable, despicable or illegal content, and to ensure they can show their best faces to new users, advertisers, partners and the public. in general. He say the critical challenge is then “exactly when, how and why to intervene”.

Platforms like Twitter cannot represent “city squares”, especially since, in the case of Twitter, only a small part of the city uses the service.

Public squares are implicit and explicitly regulated by social behavior associated with relationships in public, supported by the ability to defer an authority to restore law and order if disorder arises. In the case of a private company, what Twitter is now, the last word will largely be at fault with Musk.

Even if Musk implemented his own town square ideal, it would presumably be a particularly freewheeling version.

Giving users more leeway in what they can say can contribute to greater polarity and further coarser discourse on the platform. But this would again discourage advertisers – which would be a problem under Twitter’s current economic model (in which 90% of revenue comes from advertising

Free speech (but for everyone?)

Twitter is significant smaller than others major social media networks. However, research has shown that it has a disproportionate impact as tweets can spread with speed and virality, spilling over to traditional media

The viewpoints to which users are exposed are determined by algorithms aimed at maximizing exposure and clicks, rather than enriching users’ lives with thoughtful or interesting points of view

Musk has suggested that he could make Twitter’s algorithms open source. This would be a welcome increase in transparency. But once Twitter becomes a private company, Musk will largely decide how transparent it is about its operations in its sole discretion.

Ironic, Musk has accused Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg of too much control over public debate.

Still, Musk himself has a history of trying suffocate are critics viewpoints† There is little to suggest that his actions are really to create an open and inclusive city square via Twitter – much less to suggest that it will be in the public interest.The conversation

This article was republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article


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