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Four key changes expected as Elon Musk takes over Twitter

Four key changes expected as Elon Musk takes over Twitter
26 Apr, 2022
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Billionaire SpaceX and Tesla chief Elon Musk is also the owner of Twitter now, a move that culminated in the early hours today, April 26 after Musk’s first disclosure of purchasing a stake in the company earlier this month. While the world’s richest man had been vocal about the social media platform, its potential and its role in public conversation for a while, Musk issued a statement earlier today, giving an indication of how the platform might change going forward.

In an official statement announcing his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Musk said, “Free speech is the bedrock of democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”

“Twitter has tremendous potential,” he further added.

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On this note, here’s looking at four key changes that Twitter could undergo, once Musk takes charge of the platform later this year.

Free speech and content moderation

The statement underlines Musk’s focus on ‘free speech’ – a key area that could change on the social media platform going forward. However, the reactions have not been in unified enthusiasm with regards to Musk’s influence on the platform, and now, his subsequent takeover. Numerous reports claim that with Musk identifying himself as a “free speech absolutist”, one of the first things that could be affected is content moderation.

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Others also stated that as a consequence of Musk’s focus on free speech, the platform may even see an increase in hate speech, misinformation and harassment on the platform. Musk has been a long time critic of Twitter’s content moderation policies, and this could be one of the first aspects to change once the company officially becomes private under him.

Twitter’s present chief, Parag Agrawal, and Bret Taylor, co-CEO of Salesforce and board member at Twitter, also addressed employees through video after the sale was announced yesterday. During this session, the executives admitted that the company was entering a period of “uncertainty” – which could include how its policies would alter over time.

New features

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In terms of new features, the long-awaited edit button on the platform is clearly one of the things that would be coming up. Subsequent to Musk’s acquisition of a 9.2% stake of Twitter on April 4, the executive had tweeted a poll asking users if they wanted an edit button on the platform. It now remains to be seen how Musk shapes up other new features of the platform.

Open source algorithms

It also remains to be seen how Musk’s call to open source Twitter’s algorithms would work. Social media companies typically guard their algorithms as trade secret, citing competition in the industry as the reason why they do not disclose how algorithms work. However, some experts have stated that simply open sourcing the algorithms may not be enough.

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Vladimir Filkov, a computer science professor at University of California, Davis said, “​​Open sourcing something by definition means you can see the code, but it doesn't mean you can understand the policies or influence the policies that lead to that code. Understanding those policies would be easier than understanding code.”

As a result, he said that more importantly, if Twitter under Musk really wants to work towards accountability and transparency of operations, what they would ideally need to do is to first publicly disclose their content moderation and related policies – which in turn would help in public scrutiny and understanding of the code at hand.

Verification and bots

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Twitter’s user verification policy is also something that Musk has spoken about before – stating previously that he believes any user of the Twitter Blue subscription service should be authenticated. He has alluded that such a feature would help reduce the number of bots on the platform.

The latter, in fact, has been addressed by Musk as one of the biggest areas of improvement that’s required on Twitter. In previous criticisms of the company, Musk has called it out for investing in bringing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to user profile images – while failing to devise adequate tactics to take on a huge number of spam bots on the platform.

Under Musk, Twitter’s verification policy and its cutdown on automated accounts should also see an upheaval.

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