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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 meanwhile are little greater than a mixture of obscure rules and technical particulars might be significantly extra difficult than he suggests.

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


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 enables as a lot free speech as every nation’s legal guidelines enable.

He’s acknowledged that his plans to reshape Twitter might anger the political left and principally please the proper. 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 towards hate speech, violent threats or dangerous misinformation.

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

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


Musk’s longstanding curiosity in AI is mirrored in one of the 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 determine what exhibits up on customers’ feeds.

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

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

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


“Spam bots” that mimic actual individuals have been a private nuisance to Musk, whose reputation 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,” stated 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 understand, if I comply with a Twitter bot that simply pulls up historic photographs of fruits? I select to comply with that. Is that not allowed to exist?” he stated.

There are additionally loads of spam-filled Twitter accounts no less than partially run by actual those who run the gamut from ones that hawk merchandise to these selling polarizing political content material to meddle in different international locations’ elections.


Musk has repeatedly stated 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 — similar to two-factor authentication or popups that ask which of six photographs exhibits a college bus — might discourage anybody from making an attempt to amass a military of bogus accounts.

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

However some digital rights activists are involved these measures might result in a “real-name” coverage resembling Fb’s strategy of forcing individuals 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 individuals residing underneath authoritarian regimes the place it may be harmful if a dissident message is attributable to a selected particular person.


Musk has floated the thought of an ad-free Twitter, although it wasn’t one of many priorities outlined within the official merger announcement. Which may be as a result of reducing off the corporate’s chief means of making a living can be a tall order, even for the world’s richest particular person.

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

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


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 may allow individuals to repair a tweet shortly after posting it. A much less critical proposal from Musk advised changing Twitter’s downtown San Francisco headquarters to a homeless shelter “since nobody exhibits 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.


AP Know-how Author Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.

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