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Elon Musk Just Followed Me - Now What?
Yesterday, an intriguing incident unfolded. As I expressed my dissent towards Elon Musk's characterization of NPR as a "state-funded media" entity, I found myself becoming just the 225th individual to be followed by the new, controversial owner of Twitter. The rationale behind this decision for him to follow me remains unclear, and I am uncertain how to interpret it. Nevertheless, it adds another layer of intrigue to my social media journey, if one could call it that.
I have voiced my critique of Elon Musk on numerous fronts, particularly his propagation of nonsensical conspiracy theories and his irresponsible call for the arrest of Dr. Anthony Fauci. However, I do acknowledge and appreciate his contributions to the fields of space exploration and green technology. While I harbor reservations about his foray into the artificial intelligence space, I reserve judgment until I witness his specific applications of this technology. Regardless of my personal sentiments towards him, our social media interactions over the past half-year have been undeniably intriguing.
Before December of last year, Ed and I remained barred from using Twitter for a prolonged duration of over three years. The imposition of the ban occurred in May of 2019, after President Trump and Jack Dorsey held a meeting in the Oval Office. During that time, a barrage of right-wing media outlets had launched an aggressive campaign against Twitter and Dorsey for their decision to ban several prominent conservative voices. In the weeks following the meeting, our accounts were suspended indefinitely, with Twitter offering vague justifications for their actions to the public. Subsequently, we discovered that Twitter had "suspicions" of us having purchased our accounts, an accusation that was entirely baseless. We ultimately proved our innocence by presenting the registration emails for our accounts.
Fast forward three years, and abruptly, thanks to Elon Musk's acquisition of the struggling firm, our accounts were restored. While individuals on the left berated Musk for restoring the accounts of some highly objectionable personalities, we were left caught in the midst of the controversy. Admittedly, we opposed the reinstatement of certain individuals, such as Andrew Anglin, a self-proclaimed white supremacist and the founder of the neo-Nazi website "The Daily Stormer." Nonetheless, we found ourselves conflicted. The previous management of Twitter had wrongfully imposed a ban on us, yet they persisted in enforcing it. Musk, on the other hand, provided us with a second chance.
Ever since Musk initiated the unbanning of some of the most abhorrent personalities on Twitter, we have observed a marked increase in hateful language. However, in recent months, it seems that new algorithms and processes have been effective in restricting the dissemination of particularly inflammatory posts.
Although we have transitioned from complete obscurity on Twitter to being followed by its CEO and possessing a collective reach of nearly 800 million impressions per month under Musk's leadership, our opinions of the billionaire remain objective. In fact, we intend to utilize our expanded platform to continue to express our viewpoints to him in a respectful, yet critical manner. His decision to follow us has left me somewhat optimistic about his intentions, especially given the fact that the follow took place after a critical comment.
So now that we have a pulpit to speak, at least quietly to Mr. Musk, here are the things we would like to suggest:
Stop spreading conspiracy theories.
Even if you believe that Dr. Fauci deserves to be arrested, leave that up to prosecutors and the DOJ. Don't let your personal politics and beliefs influence your business decision making. If you alienate half of America, your platform will always be biased. Bring people together around common visions instead of pushing them apart.
Find Solutions for Twitter, in the Middle:
If you want to unban individuals who clearly spread hate and misinformation, then come up with solutions to depress these hateful and untruthful posts. Like you said "Freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach." I think that philosophy can work if implemented in a fair way. Community notes are also a start, but there needs to be better policing of the notes. I've had users add additional meaningless content to my tweets, via notes, just to try and discredit me. Because I have so many trolls who follow me, those community notes were rated positively, and thus remained up.
Verification and monetization:
By verifying ALL users or else pushing their content down, one can eliminate much of the hate on the platform. People are much less likely to post hateful lies if they have an actual identity attached to their account. Don't charge for it though. Charging for verification is a cop-out. Instead, hire the staff to help you verify anyone who wants to be verified, but force them to use their real name and real location. Those who don't verify themselves should have their content pushed down via an algorithm. Monetization could also help eliminate some of the hateful rhetoric and untruths. If micro-tipping was in place where users could actually give a fraction of a cent to a post as sort of a "super like" it could actually make people think before posting. Of course this won't solve all the issues involving hate and misinformation but it could at least help a little.
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