Elon Musk wants to offer Twitter users something different types of Twitter. Just as moviegoers use maturity ratings to decide what types of movies to watch, Twitter users can choose their own modes and moderation preferences.
That, at least, is judging by his music over the past 24 hours – how he moves forward is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, some users are testing their commitment to free speech by flooding Twitter with racial slurs. And as the U.S. midterms approach, observers fear that the tide of misinformation could be a deluge.
Musk’s announcement on Friday came after Twitter users expressed doubts about his plan, calling for a “Content Moderation Council.” The user notes that Facebook has something similar but is still raging left and right. Musk replied: “Good thing. It’s probably better to be able to select which version of Twitter you want, this movie is for maturity ratings. The tweet’s rating can be selected by itself, then modified by user feedback.”
Musk also expressed some of his thoughts when he responded with an approving “direct hit” emoji to a user who wrote: “I don’t know who needs to hear this but, death threats are not part of protected speech, it’s in a different class of ‘crime. ‘ is said. So you know. You haven’t got to do that yet.”
But apparently Twitter users will have more to do than before Musk’s acquisition. Musk, a self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist,” accused the company’s previous leaders of being too oppressive — and fired some of them quickly. Among them was Vijaya Gadde, Head of Legal, Policy and Trust, whose content arbitration policies Musk is pounded.
After Musk took over the company, trolls were quick to test the limits. In the 12 hours immediately after the $44 billion deal was finalized, use of the N-word on Twitter increased by nearly 500%, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, which analyzes social media content and predicts emerging threats.
Friday, Musk Tweeted, “To be very clear, we have not made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies.” That’s after he tweeted earlier: “Twitter will form a Content Moderation Council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will take place before that council meets.”
Another glimpse into Musk’s thinking came Friday night. One user suggested: “Make Twitter have different game modes…PvP [player-versus-player] Twitter is where you can start beefing and crowding each other on verified personal accounts. Roleplaying Twitter is only for anon accounts with minimal moderation. Normal Twitter is for everyone with heavy moderation.
“That kind of makes sense,” Musk replied.
It seems that Musk will have a lot of content on his Twitter that many users find offensive or inaccurate. But, perhaps, that users will have more power to tune out what they don’t like and switch from one mode to another.
To what extent that will assuage concerns about Twitter’s direction remains to be seen.
Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, told the Associated Press, “The danger here is that Musk will turn back the clock and make Twitter a more powerful engine ‘in the name of free speech.” of information.
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