The world is waiting to see if Twitter’s new boss will reinstate Donald Trump and other banned accounts.
Elon Musk is gradually moving forward. But decisively.
The richest man in the world and new boss of Twitter (TWTR) – Get Twitter Inc. Report is giving us clues about the question which has the whole world hold its breath: what will be the content management policy on Twitter.
The CEO of Tesla (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc. Report, and three other companies – The Boring Company, Neuralink and SpaceX – has been the owner of Twitter since Oct. 27, a platform which he considers the town square of our time.
Essentially, the platform is a place where trendsetters and opinion makers meet. A place where alerts are raised on urgent problems, a place of exchange, a place of entertainment, a place of socialization.
But Twitter, like other social networks, is also often a place where racist, anti-Semitic, hateful and bullying remarks are made. Fans of conspiracy theories also propagate their theories there, while disinformation proliferates.
Under public pressure, the firm had tightened its content management policy, which resulted in the permanent ban of many public figures for violating this policy. This is the case of former President Donald Trump after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, on Capitol Hill.
‘Free Speech Absolutist’
“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them–specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter–we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said on Jan. 8, 2021 when it put the permanent ban into effect.
Musk, who calls himself a “free speech absolutist,” was against this decision. He says he is against permanent bans. The tech tycoon therefore promised a break with the old system.
But what its content management system will look like, this is the key question.
“Twitter should be as broadly inclusive as possible, serving as a fair forum for lively, even if occasionally rancorous, debate between widely divergent beliefs,” Musk tweeted on Oct. 24.
He promised advertisers that the platform will not be a “free-for-all hellscape,” even though he has already repeated many times that breaking the law is the only red line.
“Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” he wrote to advertisers on October 27. “In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.”
The entrepreneur announced the establishment of a council to review banned accounts and promised that no decisions will be made before the council convenes.
“Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” he said on Oct. 28.
He added: “To be super clear, we have not yet made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies.”
‘Twitter You want’
Despite these cautious steps which possibly aim to legitimize the final decision, the billionaire seems to have a clear idea of what his content management policy will be.
As he often does with sensitive issues — such was the case with his peace plan on the Russia-Ukraine war — Musk has started to prepare the ground by giving away bits of information on what he will pull out of the hat.
To reconcile his free speech principles with the fears of the liberals, he is considering a content-rating system modeled after the movie industry. Each tweet will be rated and users will have the option to select which ratings they wish to see.
For example, in the movie industry, a parent can decide whether to take their children under 13 to see a film rated PG-13. It could be the same with Twitter if Musk adopted the formula he just mentioned during a thread.
“Facebook has a had a fairly diverse oversight board and both the left and the right are still upset at them. Losing game,” a Twitter user posted on Oct. 28, commenting on Musk’s decision to set up a content moderation council.
“Good point,” the billionaire responded. “Being able to select which version of Twitter you want is probably better, much as it would be for a movie maturity rating.”
He added that: “The rating of the tweet itself could be self-selected, then modified by user feedback.”
Basically, everyone can choose their version of Twitter that suits them, just as everyone chooses which type of film they want to see. Consequently, Twitter would be a forum of all opinions, giving the option to users to avoid what they might consider offensive.
“Have a separate woke twitter. The woke people can live there and be as safe as houses. 🌈🏳️🌈🦄,” one Twitter user commented.
“Isn’t this kind of segregation just going to make the echo chambers and division in society even worse? I think being directed to content that algorithms know we’ll like is what got us here in the first place,” said another user.
“Bisecting a community is never a good idea. Exposing one’s own opinions to criticism is a vital component of avoiding extremism,” another user said.