Laws, security and ethics: Elon Musk up against the wall on Twitter

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has sparked excitement, apprehension, and plenty of snide comments from observers who aren’t giving the Tesla boss much money in the face of the mammoth task ahead of him, especially since he fired many employees.

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Because the “public space” he bought for 44 billion dollars has legal, ethical and technical responsibilities that are not commensurate with his income.

Twitter does not have the human and financial resources of its neighbors Meta and Google, but must manage similar issues, from content moderation to cybersecurity and compliance with different laws depending on the country.

But Elon Musk has fired management and plans to lay off about 75% of Twitter’s 7,500 employees, according to the Washington Post.

More than 700 people have left this summer, of their own free will, according to an employee who wished to remain anonymous.

The platform “has an infinite number of security and safety issues,” said Rebekah Tromble, a professor at George Washington University. “My worst fear at this stage is a massive layoff plan or mass resignation. This will further restore a flawed system.”

Twitter had “only” 238 million daily active users at the end of June, a fraction of the attendance of Facebook or YouTube, but the attendance of policy makers and other media personalities regularly puts it in the midst of controversy.

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“Twitter Jail”

The social network has been heavily criticized by the American right, which considers itself censored, as well as by the left and many NGOs that advocate a stronger fight against abuse.

Twitter currently enforces penalties ranging from warnings, removal of tweets, and account suspensions for offenses such as misrepresenting COVID-19, racist messaging, or inciting violence.

“Not 100% effective. And when hate or harassment slips through the cracks, it translates into real-life harm,” said Rebekah Tromble.

Elon Musk seems to have slowed down his absolutist approach to freedom of expression, to reassure advertisers, who are usually concerned not to associate their brand with non-consensual content.

The new boss has promised that Twitter will not become “hell” and that he will give the platform a “content moderation board” to make decisions.

“Twitter had such a committee in the past, like other social networks. It didn’t lead to much,” Rebekah Tromble judged.

Tech companies have also developed sophisticated algorithms to filter out problematic content, “but in practice, moderation is done by the hands of tens of thousands of underpaid people,” he added. he.

On Friday, Elon Musk seemed determined to provide after-sales service himself.

“Those who are suspended for minor or questionable reasons will be released from prison on Twitter,” he replied, for example, to a user who asked him to let his father return to the platform.

“Welcome to Hell”

The multi-billionaire will be under pressure from his admirers, but also from many governments that question the power of social networks.

“Its room for maneuver will be reduced by new policies adopted in Europe and India,” judge Emma Llanso of the NGO Center for Democracy and Technology.

The United States has long been more lenient, but some conservative states now also want to regulate moderation.

“Musk will find himself in a difficult position if the law passed in Texas imposes the retention of certain content that Europe mandates to withdraw”, the specialist summarized.

“Are you excited for the Chinese government to find ways to threaten Tesla’s business in China with content that appears on Twitter? Because it will,” wrote Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge, on Friday in an editorial addressed to the businessman.

The tweeting network must also fend off cyberattacks every day, from hackers to criminal groups and agencies working on behalf of foreign states.

In July 2020, the accounts of American personalities, including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos (the founder of Amazon) and … Elon Musk were hacked by young Americans who obtained the identities of employees.

“You’re now the king of Twitter and people think you’re now personally responsible for everything that happens here,” quipped Nilay Patel. “Welcome to hell. That was your idea.”

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