Elon Musk has done it. A hostile takeover of Twitter. Musk has bought the micro-blogging site for $44 billion. And, yes. He’s now planning to change things. Twitter has about 200 million users across the world – though it’s still far behind Zuckerberg’s Meta, with 3.6 billion users across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Here are five things that might change on Elon Musk’s Twitter.
Free Speech. No Holds Barred
Musk is a believer in absolute free speech and very little moderation. In reality, he hasn’t been happy ever since the United States Securities and Exchange Commission made him delete a series of tweets. He took it as an act of confrontation and an attempt to meddle in his personal company affairs. So, what did he do? He bought Twitter – just because he can. Musk wants himself and others to be able to say whatever they want to say in this “town square” without consequences.
At the TED event, Musk speculated on minimal moderation on Twitter, limited to stuff like sharing child porn and violent content. He insisted that the community at large should decide on what should and should not be on the website. Plus, he said there should be public records spelling out solid reasons on why accounts are suspended or tweets removed. This could be a game-changer. For one, it might mean the return of Donald Trump and Kangana Ranaut to the platform. It also means arbitrary suspensions based on government requests might be put to a stop. Or at least a record would exist, where anyone can see why a government asked Twitter to remove content.
The free speech debate is a tricky one. Right now, what should and should not go on a public platform is largely controlled by the platform itself. What would be ideal is to have a system where community moderation happens. But then, we don’t live in an ideal world.
Wipe Out Bot Armies
Bot armies pose one of the most serious security threats to all networks. They are controlled and operated by botmasters (also called bot-herders). While their activity has so far been limited to extralegal and criminal activity, their potential for causing large-scale damage to the entire Internet is incalculable.
Eradicating spam bots is a good thing for Twitter – something that will hopefully improve the quality of discourse and finally #MakeTrendingTopicsGreatAgain.
Elon has said this time and again that he will get rid of bot armies on Twitter. If you’ve been a Twitter user for a while, you might have noticed marketing companies spamming the website with copypasta tweets to make something trend. TV news channels indulge in this behaviour and couch it as “marketing.”
Political parties use this copypasta trick towards diabolical ends. Even crypto bros use this technique to pump up the prices of their coins. Just like – oh, the irony – Musk did with Dogecoin.
Authenticate All Humans
What “authenticating all humans” might mean is changing the blue tick verification system. Maybe, just maybe, Twitter will now give out more verified blue ticks to people who prove they’re human. How will they do it and what criteria will they use? Who knows? A word of caution though. Anonymous users aren’t just spammers – there are also users using the platform as whistle-blowers or to expose corruption or just post funny memes.
The Edit Button!!
For years, a section of users on Twitter have been demanding an edit button to make changes to tweets after they are posted. Musk held a poll earlier this month about it, and 73 percent voted in favour of it.
CEO Parag Agrawal ominously said the consequences of this poll would be important. So, it seems like an edit button is coming soon. But there are concerns. Suppose I tweet something like “I love Arnab Goswami” and I get 1,000 retweets. Then I use the edit button and sneakily change it to “I love Navika Kumar”. Boom, information manipulated to appear popular, even when it isn’t. Payment for “brand marketing services” from Navika confirmed. That’s a real problem. In his TED interview, Elon spoke about it and said perhaps a timer would be attached to each tweet so it can only be modified for a duration of, say, five minutes. Additionally, each tweet will carry an edit log to let people see what edits were made.
It sounds good in theory, but time alone will tell.
An Open Source Algorithm
Open sourcing the code will let people who understand the code decipher just how the system makes its decisions. They can also suggest changes to it. During a TED interview a couple of weeks ago, Musk said he would hang over control of the process to a community of moderators. So, the public at large would be in charge of how this “town square” of the internet functions.