Elon drags Twitter screaming… somewhere
For an entrepreneur obsessed with space and the future, Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter might at first glance seem unusually down-to-earth and focused on the present.
If Twitter is good at anything, it’s driving the minute-by-minute conversation about news and culture – and the response to that conversation, and the response to that response, in a rhetorical spiral very trapped in the present.
But I was interested in another question: what strength happening here? I reached out to a group of tech and policy thinkers to ask if there’s anything we’re missing — a surprising way Musk could bring a dash of his signature ambition to the party, or plan to transform the platform. shape in a way no one expects.
The answer is: Well, maybe.
“Musk thinks the internet, sustainable energy, space exploration, artificial intelligence and rewriting human genetics will have more of an impact on the future of humanity than anything else,” Mark said. Jamison, an economist and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who studies technology. “He tends to tie his business interests to these issues, he doesn’t like being told ‘no’ and he tries to replace legacy industries.”
Here, the “legacy industry” in question is hardly a legacy compared to the American monoliths like autos and aerospace that Musk has already managed to disrupt. But Musk’s approach to Twitter ownership is different from that of other social media companies. The traditional social media business model, as demonstrated by companies like Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter in the late 2000s and 2010s, followed a typical pattern: develop an addictive product, monetize it and becoming a traditional megacorporation and worrying about how the product fits into society and changes it later.
Musk, on the other hand, prioritizes the latter part of the equation, as demonstrated by his obsession with revamping his moderation and verification policies, and his repeated insistence that he takes charge of the platform. formed out of a desire to help humanity.
By approaching it primarily as a citizens’ project rather than a profit-making project, it demonstrates an interest in its power to shape the world as a tool of communication, regardless of the effectiveness of the solutions it proposes.
“You get back into the phase of building a business on some level,” said Peter Leyden, a writer and futurist who followed the tech industry for decades. He suggests that for Twitter to become a true engine of progress, it might need to rethink not just the problems it tries to solve, but the entire decision-making and technological framework it has in place to solve them. including the use of AI and other tools at scale. “To have 8 billion people on planet Earth on the same telecommunications infrastructure will require innovation, but global innovation, not just another committee to oversee moderation.”
Pedro Domingos, professor emeritus of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, pointed out on a similar note that “social media, and Twitter in particular, is still very immature, and Elon may well make changes that will make it considerably better and other social networks will then have to copy it. In other words, there’s plenty of room for the kind of blue sky thinking that Musk and his fellow Masters of the Universe startups like to brag about in their halls. meeting and their presentation meetings.
A small obstacle to this, however: Twitter is not some quirky, experimental piece of software, but the fundamental digital media platform for the political world, with all the pressures that come with it. Musk now owns Twitter (along with his creditors), and he can do whatever he wants with it. But he has an additional business empire to consider, and by making himself the de facto chief moderator of online political discourse, he has put himself in an undeniably embarrassing position that may not even have occurred to him yet.
“[Musk] now controls a major megaphone that political leaders on all sides rely on,” said Brookings Institution Fellow and former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “Will this help him?” Will that make him a political target? Will he develop political sensitivities? If his Twitter supply management and first 48 hours of ownership are any indication, he needs to recognize that he’s no longer just the richest person in the world, but also a political lightning rod where everything he fact will be scrutinized.
It’s a bit of a shame for a guy who otherwise seems to have a great couch surfing time with his friends from Silicon Valley and fine-tune its many reviews. The latter seems to be at least for now one of his main concerns, given the multitude of policy changes he has suggested that seem tailor-made to infuriate journalists and politicians. It’s hard for even a visionary to resist the positive reactions created by your opponents’ “ownership” on social media minute by minute.
Musk really might be able to bend the platform, and therefore society, towards the noble ends he professes. But first he’ll have to overcome the less-than-noble impulses that keep many — including Musk himself — in thrall to his current iteration.
Meanwhile, now: Washington gets a first taste of what it’s like for the world’s top industrial future to own Twitter, and he’s not happy.
As Cato’s Will Duffield pointed out to me, Musk’s large business footprint could make him vulnerable to quite a bit of politics.”jawor informal leverage from regulators and officials, as in the case of “China, or local government, threatening Tesla factories, USG buying fewer SpaceX launches, etc.”
We already have a little preview of what that could look like, courtesy of POLITICO’s Rebecca Kern report last night on reactions to Weekend Zero from Musk’s property. The title says it all: “That’s exactly what a lot of us are worried about.” “That” being, primarily, Musk’s tweet about a completely baseless conspiracy theory about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband. Advocacy groups are sounding the alarm, as you’d expect: Bridget Todd, director of communications for gender equity group UltraViolet, linked to the Jan. 6 riots, said spreading such false stories has “very real implications” for political violence.
So far, elected officials have been a little more muted, though as Rebecca notes, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has already announced he is calling for an investigation into Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the selling Musk on Twitter.
With a week to go midterms, it seems more likely than all year that JD Vance and Blake Masters, the two VC-powered Senate candidates, associated with Peter Thiel, leaning towards the “new right” I wrote last weekcould go to Washington.
What makes a recent deep dive from Vox’s Andrew Prokop on one of their influential ideological associates in the tech world, particularly timely. Prokop provided a lengthy explanation of the ideology of Curtis Yarvin, sometimes better known by his pseudonym “Mencius Moldbug”, a prominent blogger and programmer whose openly anti-democratic opinions haven’t stopped either Masters or Vance from quoting him repeatedly.
The Masters and Vance campaigns declined to comment for the story. mastery vehemently protested to NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard that he is “anti-monarchy” and “very happy with the American Revolution” in response to questions about his association with Yarvin, while Vance more openly embraced him. Whatever their associations, Prokop’s explanation is helpful in understanding the influential elements of Yarvin’s program on the political style of Vance and Masters: a complete and total replacement of federal bureaucracy, a willingness to ignore judicial opinions and a belief in a concerted and harmful policy. opposition among the media and academia that must be dismantled at all costs.
Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schrecker ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Steve Heuser ([email protected]); and Benton Ives ([email protected]). Follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.