Signs of Alzheimer’s disease: Musk’s view of Twitter has nothing to do with reality

Billionaire Elon Musk dreamed of dominating Twitter, it seems, drifting away, on the way to the impossible. While one can imagine a positive future where an entrepreneur with a successful history takes the reins of the existing social network, battles it from the ground up and makes it a worthy competitor to Facebook instead of the niche addon that it is today, his entry is almost certain to ensure its rapid collapse in phishing. sewer induction.

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The vision that Musk directs when it comes to online discourse is far from innovative or pioneering. It is old, petrified, putrid, a little nostalgic in that it recalls the vision that characterized the network at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present and mostly ignores everything we already know about online discourse, all the lessons learned, some in the blood.

Musk praised the vision in an interview at TED last week, about to announce his intention to take control of Twitter. “I think it is very important to have an inclusive arena of freedom of expression,” he said. “Twitter has become a de facto city square, so it is really important for people to have the perception that they can speak freely within the limits of the law. My gut feeling is that a public platform that maximizes trust and has a broad reach is very important to the future of civilization.”

When asked by the interviewer if he thinks there should be no restrictions on what people can say on Twitter, Musk replied, “I think Twitter or any forum is restricted by the laws of the country in which they operate” so there are clearly certain restrictions on Freedom of speech in the US and of course Twitter has to abide by these laws.”

And what about cases where the situation is not completely clear? “If there’s a gray area, I’d say let the tweets happen. We want to be completely unprepared to delete things and be very careful with permanent boycotts. I think timeouts are better than permanent boycotts (and is there an indication? Twitter? It wouldn’t be perfect, but I think we want a perception and reality that the expression is as free as possible,” Musk explained.

To sum up Musk’s concept: Publishing whatever is permitted by law and in places where it is suspicious of permission is a recipe for increasing trust in online platforms. This view is of course complete nonsense. A sure recipe for disaster. And if Musk really believes him, he may be pointing to the early signs of Alzheimer’s, as he seems to have forgotten everything that’s happened on social media in recent years.

The vision, as Techdirt’s Mike Mesnick sharply pointed out, is very similar to that which characterized internet pioneers, including Mark Zuckerberg in the early years of Facebook, and the founders of Twitter themselves. If we create a platform that allows people to speak freely and exchange opinions on an equal footing in a place without the control of senior gatekeepers, then good things will happen.

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Mark Zuckerberg

Young Mark Zuckerberg. At the height of innocence

(Photo: AP)

Anyone who was here 30 and 20 years ago, when the Internet was still trying to understand itself, remembers the idea that the Web would transform the world into a nearby global village, break down barriers between people, strengthen bonds, help overcome disagreements and deep fought conflicts, and advance All citizens of the world hold each other’s hands, dance in the great circle of human brotherhood and sing combo. To say it didn’t exactly happen would be accurate. Saying that the network caused the exact opposite situation would be no less accurate.

In recent years, in hindsight, this vision has been abandoned in favor of the understanding that an open and unfettered network is not a recipe for global peace but a breeding ground for extremism, incitement, division and hatred that is effectively exploited by bad actors – countries like Russia, trolls, conspirators and more delusions For the effective distribution of lies and hate speech. The rise of the hallucinogenic QAnon conspiracy movement, the massive echo of vaccine opponents and Corona deniers, the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the devastating civil war in Ethiopia, and the general breakdown of trust in facts and reality in favor of reliance on alternative facts. And other feelings are all freedom of expression as broad as possible.

Musk predicts, or rather deceives, that Twitter has no restrictions on free speech beyond those required by law to be a place of trust and bride. But anyone who is unlucky to be caught up in a Twitter storm knows that the result of a lack of restraint is a discourse dominated by the network’s bad and inferior sides; that severe personal attacks, insults, incitement, racism, homophobia and misogyny dominate the discourse; The result is the flight of those who really want to speak up and the intensification of those who want to humiliate, belittle, intimidate and threaten.

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Oak musk. Hey, we said without silencing anyone

(Photo: AP)

Facebook and Twitter finally realized this, and abandoned the vision of a platform without restrictions in favor of a concept that frames discourse within certain rules and makes efforts, not always satisfactory, to monitor and prevent inflammatory and harmful statements, even though they may be considered legitimate. Even Trump’s (failed) social network, the repressive Truth Social, which was explicitly established as a large-scale alternative to the major social networks, was. blocked users And posts restricted by others.

They do this not because they are tired of free speech, but because they realize that lack of restrictions poisons discourse, turning the platform into a place that can alienate most users, deter advertisers and land them in legal and regulatory trouble. The networks realized that if they didn’t do something themselves, lawmakers would come and do it for them — and they might not be happy with the outcome.

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Twitter. escaped death?

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Musk has forgotten all this, is unaware of it, or is willfully ignoring it all. In his vision, once the limits of discourse are removed from Twitter, there will be a blossoming in the trust and inclusion of participants, who will flock in droves to a utopia of free, open, and acceptable speech. It is a vision of a reality that does not exist, where there are no trolls and other users looking only to spread poison and attack other users. A world where everyone is kind, speaks politely and knows how to contain disagreements. A world that only existed in the imagination of network pioneers and did not become a reality.

If Musk takes over Twitter and applies his vision to it, it won’t be a new beginning for the social network, but the beginning of its end. Along the way, it can also inflict a host of new and unexpected damage to global discourse and the fateful dynamics that derive from it. Twitter has a lot of difficulties. Seeing Musk is not the answer to any of them. The apparent failure of the takeover bid is good news for Twitter, its users, and ultimately the world as well.

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