Elon Musk’s bid highlights Twitter’s unique role in public speaking – and what

There has been a lot of news on Twitter lately, albeit for the wrong reasons. Its stock growth has slowed and the platform has remained largely the same since its inception in 2006. On April 14, 2022, Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, offered to buy Twitter and privatize the public company.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk said, “I have invested in Twitter because I believe it has the potential to be a platform for freedom of speech around the world and I believe that freedom of speech is a social obligation for an effective democracy.”

As a researcher on social media platforms, I’ve noticed that Musk’s potential ownership on Twitter and the reasons he mentions for buying the company raise important issues. These problems stem from the nature of the social media platform and set it apart from others.

What makes Twitter unique

Twitter occupies a unique niche. Its short text and threading encourages real-time conversations between thousands of people, making it popular with celebrities, media personalities and politicians.

Social media analysts talk about the half-life of content on a platform, which means the time it takes for a piece of content to reach 50% of its total lifetime engagement, usually measured in terms of number of views or popularity-based metrics. The average half-time of a tweet is about 20 minutes, with five hours for Facebook posts, 20 hours for Instagram posts, 24 hours for LinkedIn posts and 20 days for YouTube videos. As well as revealing many short half-life events, it illustrates the central role that Twitter has played in conducting real-time conversations.

Twitter’s ability to shape real-time speech, as well as geo-tagged data, can be collected from Twitter, making it a gold mine for researchers to analyze a wide variety of social phenomena, ranging from public health. Politics Twitter data has been used to inspect asthma-related emergency departments, measure public epidemic awareness, and model fire smoke emissions.

Part of a conversation is that tweet Shown in chronological orderAnd, although the busyness of a tweet is much frontloaded, the Twitter archive Each public tweet provides instant and complete access. It ranks Twitter as one Historical chronicler of record And a de facto fact checker.

Musk’s change of mind

An important issue is how Mask’s ownership of Twitter and personal control of social media platforms affect greater public health. In a series of deleted tweets, Musk gave various suggestions on how to change Twitter, including adding an edit button for Twitter and providing automatic verification marks to premium users.

There is no experimental evidence on how an edit button can change the way information is sent to Twitter. However, it is possible to extrapolate from previous research that analyzed deleted tweets.

There are many ways to recover deleted tweets, which allows researchers to study them. Although some studies have shown that there is a significant personality difference between users deleting their tweets and those who do not, these results suggest that deleting tweets is a way for people to manage their online identities.

Analyzing deletion behavior can also provide valuable clues about online credibility and confusion. Similarly, if Twitter adds an edit button, analyzing the types of editing behavior can inspire Twitter users and provide insights into how they present themselves.

A study of bot-generated activity on Twitter has concluded that almost half of the accounts tweeted about COVID-19 are probably bots. Given the bias and political polarization in online spaces, allowing users – whether they be automated bots or real people – the option to edit their tweets could become another weapon in the misleading arsenal used by bots and advertisers. Editing tweets can cause users to selectively distort what they say, or refuse to make inflammatory comments, which can complicate efforts to identify inaccurate information.

Twitter content moderation and revenue model

To understand what’s next for social media platforms like Musk’s Inspiration and Twitter, it’s important to consider the great – and opaque – online advertising ecosystem involving multiple technologies powered by ad networks, social media companies and publishers. Advertising is the primary source of income for Twitter.

Mask’s approach is to monetize Twitter from subscriptions rather than ads. Without worrying about attracting and retaining advertisers, there will be less pressure on Twitter to focus on content restraint. This will make Twitter a kind of freewheeling opinion site for paying customers. Twitter has been aggressive in its use of content restraint in its efforts to address misinformation.

The description of the mask of a platform free from content restraint problems is problematic in light of the algorithmic disadvantages caused by social media platforms. Studies have shown a host of these disadvantages, such as algorithms that determine gender for users, potential errors and biases of algorithms used to collect information from these platforms, and the impact on those seeking health information online.

The testimony of Facebook’s whistleblower Frances Haugen and recent regulatory efforts, such as the online security bill unveiled in the UK, show that there is widespread public concern about the role of technology platforms in shaping popular speech and public opinion. Mask’s potential bid for Twitter highlights a whole host of regulatory concerns.

Because of Musk’s other businesses, Twitter’s ability to influence public opinion in the sensitive industry and the automobile industry will automatically create conflicts of interest, not to mention affecting the disclosure of material required by shareholders. Musk has already been accused of delaying the disclosure of his ownership on Twitter.

Twitter’s own Algorithmic Bias Bounty Challenge Concludes that a community-led approach is needed to create advanced algorithms. A highly creative exercise created by MIT Media Lab invites high school students to rethink the YouTube platform with ethics in mind. Perhaps it’s time to ask Twitter to do the same, who owns and manages the company.

Anjana Susarla, Professor of Information Systems, Michigan State University This article is reproduced from a conversation under the Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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