- Sputnik International, 1920
Get the latest news from around the world, live coverage, off-beat stories, features and analysis.

Experts, Users Say Musk's Purchase of Twitter Could Change Platform Moderation, Algorithms

© AP Photo / Gregory BullThe Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, Monday, April 25, 2022, in San Diego.
The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, Monday, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.05.2022
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk could result in the social media platform changing its moderation policy in line with the tech billionaire's declared free speech commitments, restoring suspended accounts as well as making its algorithms more transparent, experts and users surveyed by Sputnik have said.
Earlier this week, Twitter said it agreed to be acquired by Musk in a deal worth $44 billion, although it is still subject to shareholder approval. Meanwhile, media reports and Wall Street analysts have expressed concerns that the richest person in the world might renege on the deal despite a billion-dollar termination penalty.

Moderation and Suspension

The reports about the buyout deal have sparked great enthusiasm among those who considered the platform moderation as stifling expression of certain viewpoints and narratives, while others have been quick to voice their concerns that it will turn Twitter into a cesspool of incivility and misinformation.
Some, like Michael Rectenwald the former NYU professor of global studies and author of Google Archipelago, see direct political implications as the social media platform "has been an organ of the Democratic party and the state it now runs unilaterally."
"I expect that Elon Musk will attempt to make good on his promises for free speech and that Twitter will come to reflect his free-speech commitment. If Musk has his way, the platform will no longer discriminate against content based on wokeness, political belief, and adherence to official state narratives and dictates," Rectenwald said, adding that it could include "the restoration of banned accounts on request by users and dramatic changes to Twitter's discriminatory, leftist algorithms."
At the same time, the expert suggested that Musk's Twitter will face pressure "from the woke cartel of Big Tech, including threats to remove the Twitter app from the Apple Store for failure to remove 'hate speech,'" as well as the exodus of "woke" advertisers from the platform.
"Musk will also likely face legislative threats from Democratic lawmakers, and other forms of coercion from the establishment," Rectenwald added.
According to Adam Ellwanger, the professor of English at the University of Houston - Downtown, the effects of changes in moderation policies are already on display even if they have not been made public yet as "many accounts are experiencing considerable fluctuations in their number of followers — a phenomenon that suggests algorithmic adjustments are occurring behind the scenes."
"In addition, some users have been posting less-guarded opinions on contentious cultural issues — comments that likely would have resulted in suspensions only a week ago. This reflects increased confidence that the enforcement of the old policy has already been mitigated or stopped entirely," Ellwanger stated, noting that changes will be made public soon and include some surprises.
One of the users who ran afoul of the platform's moderators is John from Virginia, who had an active account since 2008, which, however, was suspended for alleged "spam and platform manipulation." John told Sputnik that his appeals to Twitter elicited no response from the social media. Meanwhile, he is convinced that overhauling the moderation policy will take a while and will not result in radical changes overnight.

"I have noticed extreme follower count changes for some significant accounts. Left of centre celebrities are losing massive amounts of followers, while right of centre celebrities and big accounts are gaining massive amounts of followers," John said, expressing his distrust in the "media narrative" about an exodus and influx of users and suspecting that "Twitter is revealing how much some followings were artificially boosted and destroying the evidence before Musk acquires the company."

He noted that while Musk does not yet have official power over the platform, some suspended accounts, like Fox News host Tucker Carlson's, have been reinstated, chalking it up to some Twitter employees feeling empowered by the news about the deal and using it as an opportunity to allow some people back.
Ellwanger offers a similar observation, saying that "some temporary suspensions have already been lifted" and the question is whether or not Donald Trump will have his account reinstated.
"Personally, I expect he will, although he says that he will not return to the site even if he is allowed to. Whether he will remain committed to that promise remains to be seen," the professor said.
When asked about Trump's possible return, social media expert Andrew Selepak of the University of Florida suggested the former president is unlikely to forego an audience of over 80 million people, which he had on Twitter, in favour of much lower number of followers on his own social network Truth Social, "a platform that made a splash the day it became available in that week and now has been forgotten."

What Comes Next

Apart from his promise to uphold free speech on Twitter, Musk has also promised to enhance the social network with new features, such as an edit button, identity authentication and transparent algorithms.
Selepak thinks that if Musk will be able to increase Twitter's potential as a public forum it will be good thing from the democratic standpoint. He specifically cites Musk's intention to add more transparency to the platform's algorithms.
"And I think that would be a tremendous benefit to people. Now, it doesn't mean that the average user is going to be able to understand it, it doesn't mean that the average user is even going to pay attention to it. But you know, increased transparency in terms of how social media platforms operate, is definitely beneficial for everyone," Selepak stated.
He drew comparison with the list of ingredients on products in grocery stores, providing necessary information to buyers.
"We don't have any equivalent when it comes to social media. We don't know what's going in it. We don't know how it's being made. We don't know have any of that information," the expert explained, adding that if Musk succeeds in making Twitter algorithms more transparent this could lead to other platforms implementing similar changes.
John had mixed opinions about Musk's proposals, lauding the idea of Twitter's direct messages having end-to-end encryption like Signal as well as noting concern over identity authentication among anonymous users.
"I hope that he [is] focusing more on eliminating spam and less on trying to remove anonymity," John said.
Rectenwald, for his part, thinks that "Musk will no doubt improve Twitter's technology, not only with edit functions but also unforeseen developments."
To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала