Elon Musk has laid out some bold, if still vague, plans to transform Twitter into a place of “ultimate fun” once he buys the social network for $44 billion and takes it private.
But enacting what for now is little more than a mix of vague principles and technical details could be considerably more complicated than Tesla’s CEO suggests.
Here’s what could happen if Musk goes ahead with his ideas on free speech, fighting spam, and artificial intelligence in social media.
Musk’s top priority, but also the vaguest, is to make Twitter a “politically neutral” digital public square that allows as much freedom of expression as the laws of each country allow.
He has acknowledged that his plans to reshape Twitter could anger the political left and mostly please the right. He hasn’t specified exactly what he will do with the terminated account of former US President Donald Trump and other right-wing leaders whose tweets have violated the company’s restrictions against hate speech, violent threats or harmful misinformation.
Musk hasn’t ruled out suspending some accounts, but says such bans should be temporary.
OPEN SOURCE ALGORITHMS
Based on his hobby of artificial intelligence, Musk has vowed to “make algorithms open source to increase trust.” He talks about systems that classify content to decide what appears in users’ feeds.
But some — especially the most conservative — are concerned about “shadow banning”, a supposed function to reduce the reach of misbehaving users, but without disabling their accounts.
AUTHENTICATE ALL HUMANS
Musk wants Twitter to “authenticate all humans,” an ambiguous proposal that could be related to his desire to remove spam accounts.
Increasing mundane identity checks — like two-factor authentication or pop-ups asking which of the six photos shows a school bus — could deter anyone from trying to amass an army of fake accounts.
Musk may also be considering giving more people the blue badge to authenticate tweeters’ accounts.
But some activists worry that these measures could lead to a “real name” policy similar to Facebook’s approach of forcing people to validate their full names and use them in their profiles. That could contradict Musk’s free speech approach.
TWITTER WITHOUT ADS?
Musk has floated the idea of an ad-free Twitter, even though it wasn’t one of the priorities outlined in the official merger announcement. That may be because removing the company’s primary way of making money would be a tall order, even for the world’s wealthiest person.
Ads accounted for more than 92% of Twitter’s revenue in the fiscal quarter from January to March. The company last year launched a premium subscription service, known as Twitter Blue, but so far with little success.
Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.
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Musk’s plans for Twitter: What is known so far