Why Elon Musk at the helm of Twitter scares so many people

Why Elon Musk at the helm of Twitter scares so many people

Elon Musk's decision to buy Twitter was motivated by himself above all in one way: he doesn't like the content moderation policy of the platform founded by Jack Dorsey. Although he has not yet explained exactly how he would like to change it, Musk has repeatedly stated openly that Twitter should guarantee the most absolute freedom of expression and limit as much as possible the moderation (or censorship?) Of anything that is not openly illegal. . Twitter, from the point of view of its new owner, must be a "de facto public square".

What Elon Musk thinks is perhaps an innovative and revolutionary idea is, on the other hand, decidedly old. Worse still: in the face of the facts, it has already proved to be a bankruptcy idea. Twitter itself has long tried to limit any form of moderation as much as possible precisely because its position on freedom of expression was among the most libertarian of all. Even today, it is the only social network to allow the presence of porn.

Elon Musk has bought Twitter: the background After weeks of negotiations, the company has decided to accept the entrepreneur's $ 44 billion offer, which promises big changes to the platform. change your mind and implement a tighter and (hopefully) more effective moderation, it is because - even with all the limitations, errors and ambiguities inevitably present - it has become increasingly clear that leaving complete freedom of expression to anyone and in any way it was impossible. "A general rule of 'user-generated content' platforms is that each of them must begin moderating content once it reaches a certain size. A platform that refuses to get its hands dirty by deleting some content will inevitably find itself inundated with scams, porn and terrorist recruiters, "wrote Evelyn Douek in the Atlantic.

It is inevitable: to leave complete freedom of expression (or almost) is something that has already been tried to do in the past, with the result that YouTube had become the paradise of conspiracy theories and had helped to radicalize those who ended up in the vortex of contents recommended by the algorithm, on Facebook circulated undisturbed contents that have contributed to sowing violence and unrest in nations such as Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka; while Isis propaganda was spread on Twitter.

These are just a few examples caught in an immense cauldron, which over many years has shown us over and over again how leaving complete freedom of expression only encourages the presence of radical, violent, extreme contents , fakes, conspiracists, swindlers and polarizers. And that all this has contributed to shaping a society that is in turn increasingly divided, extreme and unable to dialogue (or at least this is what some scholars think, but the topic is still the subject of debate).

If Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr and the other platforms that most resisted severe content moderation also had to give up, it is because they realized that there was no alternative. On the other hand, those who wanted to remain faithful to the ideal of total freedom of expression ended up giving life to platforms that have become the paradise of trolls (8chan today 8kun) or of the far right (Gab and others). It could be summarized as follows: content moderation has not spread because the solution has been found to perform it in the best way. Absolutely not: content moderation spread because the alternative was simply worse. Elon Musk's idea of ​​leaving much more freedom of expression on Twitter is anachronistic: time has already proven that it doesn't work.

The era of social media that considered themselves "neutral platforms" not responsible for the content published on them (unlike traditional media) is over because the situation was becoming unmanageable. From this point of view, the problem is not that there is content moderation, but if anything - writes Atlantic - that "a handful of people - mainly men and mainly from Silicon Valley - decide whether the Russian state media can have social media accounts, whether a controversial post about the coronavirus can be spread to millions of people or needs to be deleted, whether the former US president can maintain or lose his direct line to global audiences. " >
Why Twitter's “edit tweet” function can become a problem The company announces for the first time experiments on the coveted “edit botton”. But the jubilation of the users does not take into account how much the platform will change and the risks that the new function brings with it. Even for information Shaping information A handful of people with enormous economic and political interests make decisions that have a direct impact on our society and do so - despite some important but limited progress - at their sole discretion. From this point of view, that a company listed on the stock exchange, with a board of directors and which must answer to shareholders, becomes a company in the hands of one person is not a step forward: it is a clear step back. Elon Musk may well tell us the tale of "freedom of expression", but the reality that it is the digital infrastructure that contributes more than any other platform to shaping the political and media agenda of Western society (and beyond) has ended in the his hands alone, and now he can use it as he pleases.

From this point of view, the problem is not even so much that Musk - although he declares himself in favor of freedom of expression - is actually a person who has over time fired a Tesla employee who had posted on YouTube one of his critiques of the driver assistance system of the electric car company and a female engineer who also in Tesla had denounced a "pervasive culture of harassment", as well as trying to silence a black employee who had accused some colleagues of racism. The real problem is general: very few people in the world are able to shape information to their liking and according to their interests.

It matters little that these decisions - eliminating Donald Trump, canceling the conspiracy posts on Covid, ban QAnon supporters - they can often seem correct to us: the point is that very few people in the world with specific interests and who have concentrated in their hands an exorbitant wealth and social power are taking them. Now Elon Musk has joined the ranks, acquiring a 44 billion dollar toy. He took what he himself called a "public square" and bought it, demonstrating for himself how his metaphor is completely inaccurate. The danger had been known for many years, now it is increasingly clear: what if it were tomorrow a much richer and perhaps even more extreme Donald Trump to buy Twitter to influence Western society at will? As Nolan Higdon wrote in Salon, the problem is not "freedom of expression", but the oligarchy.

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