When the news broke that Elon Musk had succeeded in buying Twitter today—ending weeks of wrangling and speculation—my first reaction was a bit surprising: I was quite pleased and even excited.
After becoming an early adopter many years ago, I’ve maintained my presence over the years, in most recent weeks trying to promote a new book and share article links.
I’ve noticed how the platform has changed dramatically, starting out as nothing more than a place to broadcast our location and what we were doing and then going through several iterations to become a platform that is mostly about sharing opinions with each other (and debating about them).
It’s not like any of this was a shock, but my reaction was interesting. I was happy to hear someone who is an advocate of free speech was now going to be at the helm.
I don’t drive a Tesla and don’t follow SpaceX as closely as some, but I’m a major Twitter fan and have been since almost the beginning. I’m well aware of how troll-infested this social media channel has become and the proliferation of bots and fake accounts.
Yet, as a journalist, I’m staunchly in favor of letting people have a place to share their views. This does not mean attacking each other, using abusive language, sharing misinformation, and inventing “alternative” facts. It does mean having a forum where one side of the political aisle or the other has the ability to clearly state their case without penalty.
To me, “openness” is merely a technical feature. It means the trend we saw emerging last year where accounts could be marked with a warning or blocked has finally come to an end. My problem with blocking is not that there have been some errant and nefarious posts worth blocking. It’s more about the slippery slope. Once you start blocking a few radical ideas, the next step is to pick the ones you think are radical and block those as well. And then those who are sharing opinions that don’t quite match up with the platform are also blocked. My problem, it seems, has been with Twitter.
I started seeing warning notices pop up on posts quite often, and some of them seemed fairly legit to me. None of us are perfectly informed and only share perfectly sourced information.
Even if we think we are perfect and only link to content from reputable sources, we soon discover that the link we shared has factual errors or other problems. As long as humans are creating content, there will be mistakes. (And when the bots create the content, we all know the humans behind the bots are flawed.)
More importantly, none of this has anything to do with the platform; it should be agnostic and open. Twitter was quickly becoming an arbiter of content, flagging certain types of posts but letting other users share whatever they wanted.
That ends today.
I celebrated the idea of openness on social media because, in the end, we all benefit from less filtering. The gates were closing tighter and tighter as the months went by, and eventually the platform was going to start analyzing my own posts and flagging my opinions. As the old political statement goes, your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. To rephrase that, the rights of the platform to flag and block content ends when they start blocking my posts. I’m happy about the new direction because it corrects a trend where social media does less policing of content.
What do you think? I’m curious about your view on whether Twitter will become more open now that Elon Musk is the owner. Drop a line on my Twitter feed.
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