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Musk’s Tyrannical Turn With Twitter

While the political bias is gone, the ego bias seems to have just begun

I was hopeful when Elon Musk took control of Twitter. As a longtime Musk skeptic in many areas, I thought that his move into Twitter would actually be a good thing. First of all, it matches his background better than Tesla. Twitter is a software play, and Musk’s actual expertise is in building software. Second, Twitter is just about software, not artificial intelligence, which tends to be where Musk gets into trouble. Finally, Musk has at least claimed to be a libertarian, though this seems to be limited to situations where he simply decides that he doesn’t want to do what is required of everyone else.

Elon Musk

When Musk first took control, it looked positive. Despite the incessant screaming of the media, Musk’s first actions were fantastic. He unbanned a lot of accounts (such as the Babylon Bee) which had been previously banned. He made giant inroads into combatting child exploitation on Twitter.

For instance, it appears that , if there were child sexual abuse material (CSAM) flagged on Twitter, the previous “Trust and Safety” group would often only delete the specific reported tweet, but let the account stay active. According to people who have been fighting this issue for many years, since Musk took control, nearly all CSAM material has disappeared from Twitter, and the offending accounts were banned.

Some have complained that Musk has gutted the departments who watch for this, but, given the fact that such material was so prolific on Twitter already, it is likely that he simply fired the foxes that were guarding the henhouse. For instance, the former head of the Trust and Safety committee also had a (now deleted) not-so-secret lewd account. While there is no evidence that the former employee was involved in anything illegal, this behavior seems problematic in general for the head of Trust and Safety.

Musk also made public the questionable ways with which Twitter had dealt previously dealt with hot-button political topics. We learned the inside scoop on the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story, as well as other ways that decisions were mishandled within the Twitter empire. The political bias of was exposed and (hopefully) corrected.

Musk has also said that he was a free speech absolutist, which caused many to think that anything non-illegal would be allowed on the platform. This would have been a return to the original Twitter, where ideas were openly discussed and debated, and no opinion was above criticism. Musk even said that his commitment to free speech extended even to the account which tracked his plane.

However, after this initial wave of successes, Musk has made quite a draconian turn. Under his guidance, Twitter changed its policy regarding real-time posting of someone’s location. It is now considered a violation of the “doxxing” policy. This led to a spate of suspended accounts, including the one that Musk had previously claimed would not be banned. Additionally, it is unclear whether or not the banned accounts were actually violating the policy. A number of journalists critical of Musk were banned, but Musk said in a Twitter Spaces interview that the bans were due to policy violation. It is difficult to believe that all of these journalists violated the policy, at least to such a degree that they should have their account suspended and not just have individual tweets removed.

Additionally, Twitter seems to have banned all links to rival social media site Mastodon. I personally tried to link to some innocuous Mastodon content, and received the error “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.”

In all, while the initial directions Musk was taking Twitter appeared to be good for the platform, in recent days Musk seems to have made Twitter about protecting his personal reputation rather than free speech. Twitter is no longer politically biased, and it is safer against CSAM material. However, while the political bias is gone, the ego bias seems to have just begun.

You may also wish to read: As the Twitter files drop, ponder the future of mainstream media. Mainstream media are largely ignoring the story for reasons that go to the heart of their own growing weakness and unstoppable decline. Journalism will never matter anywhere near as much to the MSM again as doing what their betters want. And they view those who follow the story as a threat. (Denyse O’Leary)


Jonathan Bartlett

Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Jonathan Bartlett is a senior software R&D engineer at Specialized Bicycle Components, where he focuses on solving problems that span multiple software teams. Previously he was a senior developer at ITX, where he developed applications for companies across the US. He also offers his time as the Director of The Blyth Institute, focusing on the interplay between mathematics, philosophy, engineering, and science. Jonathan is the author of several textbooks and edited volumes which have been used by universities as diverse as Princeton and DeVry.

Musk’s Tyrannical Turn With Twitter