After turning Twitter upside down, Elon Musk ventured further into the slippery slope of content moderation, a key issue for the future of the influential platform under pressure after the departure of advertisers and senior officials.
The owner and boss of the social network for three weeks had some suspended user accounts restored on Friday, saying immediately that he “has not yet made a decision on (Donald) Trump”.
He then launched a poll on the possible return of the former American president, who was banned from major social platforms after the attack on Capitol Hill in January 2021.
The Tesla boss, who defends an absolute view of freedom of expression, is expected to turn to this topic and to moderate content in general.
“The politics of the new Twitter is freedom of speech, but not freedom to reach” the public, he said on Friday.
“Negative or hateful tweets will be demoted and demonetized, so there’s no back-to-back ad or other revenue for Twitter. You won’t find these tweets unless you specifically look for them , which is no different from the rest of Twitter. internet,” he added.
The vision of the libertarian entrepreneur for the platform at the center of the political and social life of many countries worries many associations, authorities and advertisers. They fear that Elon Musk will remove existing safeguards, fragile as they are, against misinformation, harassment and other abuse.
His tweets on Friday refer to YouTube’s strategy, where content close to the limits set by regulations is more likely to appear in priority, without disappearing entirely.
– “Chief content moderator” –
Ella Irwin, its new head of site safety, shared the CEO’s clarifications as “important principles for Twitter”, “which will help us keep the platform healthy”.
It is not certain, however, that this will be enough to convince brands to leave, such as General Motors or Pfizer.
Because Elon Musk has multiplied both promises (such as the future creation of a content moderation council) and provocations. He even threatened to call for a “thermonuclear” boycott of dissident advertisers.
At Twitter, several engineers have been fired since Monday after questioning the new boss, either on the platform or the company’s internal messaging system.
“He’s now the chief content moderator, busy patrolling anything he doesn’t like,” said Sarah Roberts, a social media professor at UCLA University.
On Friday, as if to prove his neutrality, Elon Musk brought back accounts from opposing political sides.
Comedian Kathy Griffin has been reinstated. He had two million subscribers before being suspended last week after he, like other internet users, changed his username to “Elon Musk” to mock the boss.
“Twitter accounts that impersonate other people, without clearly specifying that it is a parody, will be permanently suspended,” Elon Musk said.
“The Babylon Bee”, an American satirical site, and Jordan Peterson, a conservative media personality, also celebrated their return. They were suspended in March and August for hate speech violations — both ridiculed transgender figures.
– “The internet of Apple and Google” –
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former chief security officer, noted in a New York Times op-ed on Friday that Donald Trump’s return to the site is a “virtual certainty.”
Last week, Yoel Roth was still defending the multi-billionaire’s decisions, arguing for example that content moderation teams were largely spared during the layoff of half of the group’s employees.
He then resigned in defiance of Elon Musk’s methods, which “defined Twitter’s regulations with unilateral orders”, he explained.
He warned that the chief executive failed at all to “convince advertisers”, a big problem for Twitter’s business model.
Even if he diversifies his sources of income, Elon Musk will find it difficult to implement his vision of freedom of expression in the face of American, European and Indian regulators, who are ready to fight if the platform does not respect their law
But above all, Yoel Roth says, Elon Musk underestimates the power of Apple and Google, which control the world’s two major mobile operating systems, iOS and Android.
The two giants can ban any application that does not respect their content rules, which are often quite vague, with “catastrophic” consequences for said application, detailed by the former manager.
“Twitter needs to balance the new owner’s goals with the real-world realities of internet life from Apple and Google,” he said.