Musk Could Cripple Content Moderation
Planned staff layoffs concern those who fear a free-for-all.
I was amused by the ABC News headline “Potential mass layoffs at Twitter could cripple content moderation, some experts say.”
Over the course of a monthslong bid to purchase Twitter, Elon Musk has signaled major changes at the platform. As Musk stands poised to acquire the company in the coming weeks, the transformation appears even more far-reaching than some anticipated.
In discussions about his plans for the company, in recent months, Musk talked about potential mass layoffs that would reduce the staff by 75%, the Washington Post reported.
While details of the potential layoffs remain limited, the move could compromise the platform’s capacity to police false or harmful content, with ramifications that extend to social issues like election integrity, experts told ABC News.
The experience of a typical user could change significantly, they added, noting the possible rise of harassment and other forms of corrosive discourse.
I mean . . . duh? If you fire the people who do content moderation, there’s going to be much less effective content moderation. But, considering that the whole reason Musk was interested in buying Twitter in the first place was that he hates content moderation (at least when it’s his content being moderated) one would think that a feature, not a bug.
Then again, as the article linked in the previous sentence notes, a growing number of countries are putting laws in place that essentially require social media firms to moderate content if they are going to do business in those countries. So, it’s not clear to what extent Musk will actually be able to carry out the plan.
I suspect a social media campaign to slanderously denounce Teslas as economically damaging and overpriced, and calling for the nationalisation without compensation of all space enterprises owned by somebody named something like Melon Tusk, might prompt a change of heart.
If Musk wants to spend $44B on a toy and then make it too toxic for many to use, thereby destroying the value of the franchise, why should anyone care or stop him? That he will incinerate the wealth of other billionaires and seriously impact his one stellar business, Tesla, negatively, well it couldn’t happen to a better part of society.
Musk, like Kayne West, is exhibiting signs of serious mental health issues, that should be of a concern to his business partners and investors. A question to ask is will Musk be the Howard Hughes of the 21st Century.
First, I can’t really care since I deleted my Twitter account in January. Second, if Musk wants to blow up $44B I also can’t really care.
This is what went through my mind:
Oh there will content moderation, just like Parler and Truth Social and all the other “free speech” places. Musk will change his tune the second Twitter turns on him…. and it will. That’s the nature of the unregluated beast, it bites the hand that feeds it and wrecks its cage.
The threat to fire 75% might be true but he secretly thinks he can just automate it. He wanted Twitter for the bots, remember. Probably thinks he can just have a few dozen words autoban folks and he’ll be fine. However as live content moderates have found, clever folks get around it rules and it’s a constant battle; Reddit mods didn’t like people using pandemic as it could cause arguments so now Reddittors will talk about the ongoing panini that killed millions. Add in that Twitter can now do that split gif thing and we’re looking at Tumblr redux – wait till the screaming from right wing parents start about their kids getting porn tweets non-stop starts and we’ll see how long his attitude lasts.
I don’t know the details, but observing Newton’s 5th.56th law of motion, objects with money fall upwards at an acceleration proportional to the multiple of the billions available. This means if St. Elon God Emperor of Mars and Phobos*, and heir to the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon**, blows up this investment, it will probably turn out to have consisted mostly of investor money, which would be wiped out, and a tiny portion of the God Emperor’s own treasure, which will allow him not to pay taxes for the next seven hundred years.
*I’m pretty sure Deimos was nuked into rubble by the UN.
*Because why not.
Nationalizing Twitter as a threat would make more sense then Telsa. There’ve been several incidents both natural and man-made where it was the first alert system in a crisis and helped save lives. I remember an earthquake where the tweets warning about it got to people before the ground moved! A fairly good argument could be made it’s a mass-adopted alert system that could be folded into national or civic defense as information distribution. You aren’t always near a TV or radio to get that tornado alert but you almost always have your phone with you.
Make ’em pay the 44B, nationalize it and then re-privatize it a year or two later just to be spiteful
This is going to stick in my brain all day if I don’t get it out. Do you think Deimos has enough gravity to hold someone to it without additional tethering?
The reason I’m stuck thinking of this now is I’m wondering, assuming suits and travel weren’t an issue, would enough people be able to stand on Deimos to cover the whole object with standing people?
Today is going to be hell.
Musk may have just lost it, but I wonder if perhaps he is talking about these Twitter destroying ideas so he can’t get financing and therefore gets out of the deal somehow.
LOL, okay Elon. Good luck buddy–if Twitter becomes more toxic than it already is, people will sign off, destroying what’s left of the value.
I’ve had a Twitter account since 2007. It’s a quick way to check for breaking news, and some interaction with people in my workspace, but it isn’t something I cannot live without. Brands seem to be peeling away and focusing more on Instagram, so I’m not entirely sold on its viability as an advertising platform. Add in rampant toxicity and brands will FLEE.
What’s the current status of the various laws and court opinions that all point to it soon becoming illegal for a sufficiently large social medium — and Twitter certainly qualifies — to do content moderation at all?
And then some.
Wikipedia says escape velocity is 5.6 meters per second. That’s 20.1 kph. An Olympic sprinter can run faster than that, but most people can’t. Add a pressure suit and oxygen and radiation shielding, and maybe even a pro runner can’t manage it. It’s still plenty to keep you grounded, though you could bounce over large distances with little effort. You could even pour wine into a glass, if you had a pressurized habitat and lots of time to kill.
Ah, you should go to xkcd What if? section and submit your question for Randall Munroe to maybe include in What If? 3.
@Beth: According to the perpetually accurate Wikipedia. Deimos has an escape velocity of 5.5… m/s. So yes you could stand on it, but a strong jump would send you into orbit.
Thank you both for indulging me. I appreciate it.
There’s a Clarke story, I forget the name, where they manually launch someone from one of the junk moons of Jupiter straight into the planet. He does escape the moon, but stays close to the moon’s orbit. So a few hours later he drifts by again, and he’s easily brought back.
@Michael Cain: IIRC, most of those lawsuits have been thrown out. As private companies, social media firms have the right to moderate content (and have a financial interest in keeping things reasonably tidy).
If a US court ruled against content moderation, it could run headlong into a European court insisting on it.
International legal fight!
I vote for the judges to be required to settle it by Trial by Combat.
Twitter is the only, literally the only, social media account I have, and I’ve had it since 2008. I’ve had it for so long my name is my actual handle.
Having said that, in over 14 years on Twitter, I have posted less than 75 tweets total. That averages out to about less than one tweet every two months.
In other words, if Musk wants to turn Twitter into 4Chan or 8Chan I would have no issues whatsoever taking my massive online posting content somewhere else.
I’ve consistently expressed my derision for Twitter as a platform as a kind of toxic mind cancer. It’s the social media equivalent of cable news IMO.
That said, it is great for some things, like getting info and links to what is happening worldwide. I used Twitter extensively for that purpose when I was an intel analyst – it was simply one of the best ways to get timely reporting and information on the less-paved parts of the world. If we could segment the US media and politics off, Twitter might be more useful to me.
But now my account sits mostly unused. Like cable news, I look at it rarely, hoping to get useful info when there is breaking news. That is mostly a disappointment, just like cable news. It’s still occasionally useful for getting links to analysis and articles from people who don’t publish elsewhere, so I do have notifications set for a handful of people.
I understand that James has some kind of curation method to separate the morass of toxicity from the good stuff – maybe that would get me to pay more attention to the platform. But I’m also wary of creating a bubble for myself – I want exposure to a wide range of views and ideas, just without the snarky self-important BS that is so common on Twitter. James, if you have a method or tool to accomplish this, please share.
As for Musk, I really wish he would focus his talents on his innovative companies that actually do things in the real world and not waste time on the quagmire of social media. I was hoping the sale would fall through. It’s funny how Twitter was totally hostile to the sale, and then they turned around and sued to keep him from backing out.
I’m a bit jealous. I also have Facebook, mainly to keep in touch with friends and family scattered around the country and globe. I’d like an alternative, but there isn’t one. I’m also forced to use it for work and manage and moderate a group of about 70k members. Fortunately, it’s tech-focused, so keeping the trolls at bay is easier.
Much like Steve Jobs, Musk’s actual talents consist of little more than buying his way into business ventures with actually talented people and then taking credit for their work.
I think people are reading too much into this. This crosses me as either a) the usual businessman who knows nothing about an industry pretending he’s going to revolutionize it; Twitter literally would not function with a 3/4 cut in its work force; b) Musk saying stupid things hoping it will get Twitter to back out of the deal.
Why would this get Twitter to back out of the deal? Once they have Musk’s money, why would they care if he destroys the company?
I’m still very close with 15 people with whom I went to elementary school. Yep. We’ve been friends for 50 years plus. They’re all on Facebook. I’m the outlier. Since I wasn’t going to join Facebook, we created a WhatsApp group text chain via which we’ve been communicating for 8+. years. That’s been a solid way of everyone keeping in touch without having to wade through the bullshit of Facebook. Since then. I’ve created several other text groups with WhatsApp, and it’s been great. My nephews on one. My mom and sister on another one. We can share photos, videos, stories – just us. And it doesn’t matter if you have an android or iPhone device.
The folks behind Truth and Parler have shown that you can spin up a Twitter clone pretty easily, once you motivate people to leave Twitter. The tech isn’t the sticking point, it’s getting the people to move.
If Musk wants to spend $44B to create a toxic hole so “Twitter, but without the Nazis” becomes a viable business model for someone else, sure, why not?
Doing so while simultaneously putting enough staff to build such a beast on the streets seems a little like tempting fate.
That’s an interesting suggestion, thanks!
By all accounts, one might describe Elon Musk as a self-indulgent and odd person who has bouts of visionary grandeur, which is slightly offset by an ability to move money into voids where talented people have been previously venturing without much fanfare or reward. If we could separate the good that travels in his wake from the nettlesome personality he displays, then that would be something!
I deleted my 2009-created Twitter account when Musk first started sniffing around, and have not missed that cesspool of hate and awfulness one bit.
At some point, not too far in the future, it will just be bots talking to other bots.
Places that welcome Nazis and bigots are soon only seeing Nazis and bigots — making Twitter a Usenet group from the mid-90s with only minimal moderation makes it an absolute cesspool that no one wants to use.