Elon Musk’s huge plans for Twitter: What we all know to this point

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has laid out some daring, if nonetheless obscure, plans for reworking Twitter into a spot of “most enjoyable” as soon as he buys the social media platform for $44 billion and takes it personal.

However enacting what in the intervening time are little greater than a mixture of obscure ideas and technical particulars might be significantly extra sophisticated than he suggests.

Right here’s what would possibly occur if Musk follows via on his concepts about free speech, combating spam and opening up the “black field” of synthetic intelligence instruments that amplify social media tendencies.

FREE SPEECH TOWN SQUARE

Musk’s feistiest precedence — but in addition the one with the vaguest roadmap — is to make Twitter a “politically impartial” digital city sq. for the world’s discourse that permits as a lot free speech as every nation’s legal guidelines permit.

He’s acknowledged that his plans to reshape Twitter may anger the political left and principally please the suitable. He hasn’t specified precisely what he’ll do about former President Donald Trump’s completely banned account or different right-wing leaders whose tweets have run afoul of the corporate’s restrictions in opposition to hate speech, violent threats or dangerous misinformation.

Ought to Musk go this route, it may imply bringing again not solely Trump, however “many, many others that have been eliminated because of QAnon conspiracies, focused harassment of journalists and activists, and naturally all the accounts that have been eliminated after Jan. 6,” mentioned Joan Donovan, who research misinformation at Harvard College. “That might probably be a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals.”

Musk hasn’t dominated out suspending some accounts, however says such bans ought to be momentary. His newest criticism has centered round what he described as Twitter’s “extremely inappropriate” 2020 blocking of a New York Put up article on Hunter Biden, which the corporate has mentioned was a mistake and corrected inside 24 hours.

OPEN-SOURCED ALGORITHMS

Musk’s longstanding curiosity in AI is mirrored in probably the most particular proposals he outlined in his merger announcement — the promise of “making the algorithms open supply to extend belief.” He’s speaking in regards to the methods that rank content material to resolve what reveals up on customers’ feeds.

Partly driving the mistrust, at the least for Musk supporters, is lore amongst U.S. political conservatives about “shadow banning” on social media. It is a supposed invisible function for lowering the attain of badly behaving customers with out disabling their accounts. There was no proof that Twitter’s platform is biased in opposition to conservatives; research have discovered the alternative on the subject of conservative media particularly.

Musk has referred to as for posting the underlying laptop code powering Twitter’s information feed for public inspection on the coder hangout GitHub. However such “code-level transparency” provides customers little perception into how Twitter is working for them with out the info the algorithms are processing, mentioned Nick Diakopoulos, a Northwestern College laptop scientist.

Diakopoulos mentioned there are good intentions in Musk’s broader purpose to assist folks discover out why their tweets get promoted or demoted and whether or not human moderators or automated methods are making these decisions. However that’s no simple activity. An excessive amount of transparency about how particular person tweets are ranked, as an illustration, could make it simpler for “disingenuous folks” to recreation the system and manipulate an algorithm to get most publicity for his or her trigger, Diakopoulos mentioned.

‘DEFEATING THE SPAM BOTS’

“Spam bots” that mimic actual folks have been a private nuisance to Musk, whose recognition on Twitter has impressed numerous impersonator accounts that use his picture and title — typically to advertise cryptocurrency scams that look as in the event that they’re coming from the Tesla CEO.

Certain, Twitter customers, amongst them Musk, “don’t need spam,” mentioned David Greene, civil liberties director on the Digital Frontier Basis. However who defines what counts as a spam bot?

“Do you imply all bots like, you realize, if I observe a Twitter bot that simply pulls up historic images of fruits? I select to observe that. Is that not allowed to exist?” he mentioned.

There are additionally loads of spam-filled Twitter accounts at the least partially run by actual those that run the gamut from ones that hawk merchandise to these selling polarizing political content material to meddle in different nations’ elections.

‘AUTHENTICATE ALL HUMANS’

Musk has repeatedly mentioned he needs Twitter to “authenticate all people,” an ambiguous proposal that might be associated to his want to rid the web site of spam accounts.

Ramping up mundane id checks — corresponding to two-factor authentication or popups that ask which of six images reveals a faculty bus — may discourage anybody from attempting to amass a military of bogus accounts.

Musk may additionally be contemplating providing extra folks a “blue test” — the verification checkmark sported on notable Twitter accounts — like Musk’s — to indicate they’re who they are saying they’re. Musk has steered customers may purchase the checkmarks as a part of a premium service.

However some digital rights activists are involved these measures may result in a “real-name” coverage resembling Fb’s strategy of forcing folks to validate their full names and use them of their profiles. That would appear to contradict Musk’s free speech focus by muzzling nameless whistleblowers or folks dwelling below authoritarian regimes the place it may be harmful if a dissident message is attributable to a specific individual.

AD-FREE TWITTER?

Musk has floated the concept of an ad-free Twitter, although it wasn’t one of many priorities outlined within the official merger announcement. That could be as a result of slicing off the corporate’s chief method of being profitable can be a tall order, even for the world’s richest individual.

Commercials accounted for greater than 92% of Twitter’s income within the January-March fiscal quarter. The corporate did final 12 months launch a premium subscription service — referred to as Twitter Blue — however doesn’t seem to have made a lot headway in getting folks to pay for it.

Musk has made clear he favors a stronger subscription-based mannequin for Twitter that offers extra folks an ad-free choice. That will additionally match into his push to chill out Twitter’s content material restrictions — which manufacturers largely favor as a result of they don’t need their advertisements surrounded by offensive and hate-filled tweets.

WHAT ELSE?

Musk has tweeted and voiced so many proposals for Twitter that it may be arduous to know which of them he takes significantly. He’s joined the favored name for an “edit button” — which Twitter says it’s already engaged on — that will allow folks to repair a tweet shortly after posting it. A much less critical proposal from Musk steered changing Twitter’s downtown San Francisco headquarters to a homeless shelter “since nobody reveals up anyway” — a remark taken extra as a dig on Twitter’s pandemic-era workforce than an altruistic imaginative and prescient for the constructing.

Musk didn’t return an emailed request to make clear his plans.

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AP Expertise Author Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.

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