Less than a month since he bought a 9.2% stake in Twitter Inc., billionaire Elon Musk is now poised to acquire the micro-blogging platform. Mint explores what could lie ahead for the platform once the world’s richest man is at the helm.
What are Musk’s plans for Twitter?
Between a statement from Musk on 26 April, polls he has conducted over the past few weeks, and other public statements, it seems clear that the world’s richest man wants to make Twitter a bastion for free speech. He plans to open-source the algorithm that ranks content on the platform, and “defeat the spam bots or die trying”. The platform is now expected to become a playground for crypto and web3 enthusiasts, and Musk has showed willingness to offer cheaper subscription. Lastly, he has mentioned his vision may only be realized by taking the company private.
Can Twitter become a bastion of free speech?
Easier said than done. Experts have pointed out that free speech is neither defined by companies, nor private individuals, even if they’re the richest in the world. Instead, the definition of free speech differs from country to country, and is based on their laws. For instance, in India, free speech has certain exclusions and isn’t an absolute right. Twitter has tussled with governments in various countries including India over content takedown requests, and many expect more such tussles in the future. Experts warn that this might reduce the positive impact of moderation on the platform, and in turn lead to more hate speech.
Can Musk defeat the spam bots?
Unlikely. In 2017, a study by the University of Southern California and Indiana University said about 15% of all Twitter accounts at the time were bots. Between January-June 2021, Twitter received 5.1 million spam reports from users, according to its own Transparency Report. The problem of bots is widespread across the internet, not just in social media.
Could open-sourcing the algorithm help?
Last week, Koo, Twitter’s India alternative, published a blog post explaining the “philosophy and workings” of its algorithms, but Musk is claiming that he will make the entire algorithm public, allowing people to understand how content is ranked. But, often, even the programmer who coded an AI algorithm doesn’t understand why a decision is being made. Open-sourcing an algorithm means you can see the code, but you will still not know the policies that are affecting how that code works. It could allow more Twitter clones, though.
What else is Musk expected to change?
Like Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and former chief executive, Musk is one of the most vocal proponents of cryptocurrencies. Musk, in the past, has suggested that users should be able to pay for the firm’s subscription feature, Twitter Blue, using crypto. Under him, crypto-related features are expected to roll out faster. He has also said subscription to Twitter Blue should be cheaper, and everyone who pays should get a checkmark after 60 days. He has suggested removing ads from Twitter, at least to some extent.