Elon Musk’s bombshell Twitter acquisition has sparked a flurry of conjecture and expert comments on the internet, but the fact is that it’s difficult to forecast exactly where the social media network will go. Musk has recently made several big promises to enhance Twitter, but most of them come with strings attached.
A campaign for free expression is at the top of the Tesla CEO’s Twitter makeover agenda. Musk has made it obvious that the economics of his almost $44 billion purchase are unimportant to him. During his April TED talk, he boldly declared that free speech is critical for the future of civilization and that he will do all in his power to make Twitter into a town square where free expression is cherished above all else.
Free speech, on the other hand, is a slippery slope that requires both balanced moderation policies and adherence to local regulations in many regions of the world. Experts have expressed worry that free speech absolutism implies permitting content from both sides of an ideological debate to thrive on the platform. However, balancing what is considered legitimate criticism in the United States versus seditious criticism under regimes with strict control over citizen expression will be a nightmare. Arguments that appear to be self-defense to one group may end up inciting violence against another.
Despite recent enhancements to user experience and platform flexibility, Twitter continues to struggle to maintain and attract new users, as well as increase revenue. Sadly, they appear to be the least of the platform’s concerns these days.
Twitter has been chastised for practically every facet of its functioning, from extensive trolling and abuse to just having a confusing layout. Furthermore, after closing down Vine and laying off over 300 people last autumn, further gasoline was thrown to the fire that Twitter was on the verge of dying.
There’s A Cost to Every Change
Another improvement Musk has promised for his vision of Twitter is the use of an open-source algorithm to increase transparency. It’s a start in the right approach to inform consumers about how the content algorithm works and how it pushes material into their feed. However, just releasing the algorithm does not reveal how it works, who created it, why it prioritizes specific information, or any AI biases that may have snuck in during the training. By open-sourcing Twitter’s algorithms, hackers have access to the platform’s core, giving them a first-hand look at weaknesses that may be exploited. More significantly, by making the algorithm open-source, bad actors will be able to create more complex bots to trick the system. In a word, an open-source Twitter will provide millions of users with a double-dose of difficulties.
Will Twitter Die or Find New Life?
However, it looks like Twitter is making progress in addressing certain persistent difficulties.
Last week, Twitter declared that usernames in tweet responses are no longer counted toward the 140-character limit, giving users greater freedom to express what they need to say while maintaining the spirit of the service. Twitter also announced safety upgrades in early February to target abusive accounts and content.
In a statement, Twitter stated, “We support freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any subject.” “When abuse and harassment suffocate and muffle their voices, that is jeopardized. We won’t stand for it, and we’re stepping up our efforts to put an end to it.”
Twitter’s default profile picture of an egg was also removed. The new default image is a human silhouette, which Recodes reports is intended to encourage more people to share photos of themselves while also moving the brand away from a troll-like appearance.