Twitter is in the spotlight lately but for the incorrect motives. The company’s stock has been declining and the company itself has been largely unchanged since its inception back in 2006. In April of 2022 Elon Musk who is the world’s most successful businessman has made an offer to purchase Twitter and then take the public company to private.
In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk said, “I invested in Twitter because I believe that it is able to serve as a place for freedom of speech across the world, and I am of the opinion that free speech is an important societal requirement for a functioning democracy.”
As a researcher on the social networks, I have found that the possibility of Musk’s control of Twitter and the reasons he has stated for purchasing the company raises important questions. These concerns stem from the character of Twitter’s social media site, and what sets it apart from other platforms.
What is it that makes Twitter different?
Twitter occupies a unique niche. Its small chunks of text and threads facilitate live conversations with thousands of people that is why it is popular with media personalities, celebrities and even politicians.
Social media experts discuss the half-life of content posted on an online platform, which refers to the amount of time required for an article to achieve half of lifetime engagement. This is usually measured by the numbers of views or other popularity-based metrics. The half-life of a tweet is approximately 20 minutes. This is in contrast with five to six hours of Facebook posts as well as twenty hours of Instagram posts as well as twenty-four hours of LinkedIn posts, and twenty days of YouTube video. The shorter time frame highlights the crucial function Twitter has taken on in facilitating real-time conversations when events take place.
Twitter’s ability to create the conversation in real time and the ease at the speed at which geo-tagged information, can be gleaned from Twitter is an ideal resource for researchers who want to research various social phenomena that span from the realm of public health and politics. Twitter data is used to identify asthma-related emergency department visits as well as to gauge public awareness and to model the dispersion of smoke from wildfires.
Tweets that are part the conversation are listed in chronological order although a large portion of a tweet’s activity is preloaded the Twitter archive is instant and gives full access to each public tweet.
Changes in Musk’s Mind
The most important issue is how Musk’s control of Twitter and the private control over social media platforms in general impact the public’s health. In a string of tweets deleted, Musk made several suggestions on how to alter Twitter to improve its user experience, such as the addition of an edit button to tweets as well as granting automatic verification marks for premium users.
There’s no evidence from experiments regarding how editing buttons affect the transmission of information on Twitter. However, it is possible to make extrapolations from prior studies that examined deleted tweets.
There are many methods to recover deleted tweets that allow researchers to investigate the tweets. Some studies have shown notable differences in the personalities of people who remove their tweets from their accounts and people who haven’t deleted their tweets, the results suggest that the deletion of tweets is an option for individuals to control their online identity.
The analysis of deleting habits can provide valuable information about the credibility of websites and information. In the same way in the event that Twitter introduces an editing feature, studying changes in editing behaviour could reveal insights about Twitter users’ motives and the way they portray themselves.
The study of bot-generated content on Twitter have revealed that more than 50% of tweets concerning COVID-19 could be bots. In light of the political polarization and partisanship in the online world, giving users – whether robots or real people the ability to edit their tweets may become a weapon in the arsenal of disinformation employed by propagandists and bots. Editing tweets can enable users to distort the content of their tweets or to deny making inflamatory comments, which could hinder efforts to find out the source of the source of information.
The moderation of content on Twitter system and revenue model
To fully understand the motives behind Musk’s actions and the next steps for social media platforms like Twitter is to look at the massive and largely opaque advertising industry that includes a variety of technology used by advertising networks as well as social media companies and publishers. Advertising is the main income source of Twitter.
Musk’s dream is to create the revenue of Twitter through subscriptions, not advertising. In the absence of finding and keeping advertisers Twitter will be under less pressure to concentrate on moderation of content. This could make Twitter an open-ended opinion site that is accessible to paid subscribers. Twitter has been adamant in employing the process of content moderation to combat misinformation.
Musk’s description of a platform that is free of content-related issues is alarming given the algorithmic damage that social media platforms cause. Research has revealed a myriad of the harms like algorithms that give gender to users, possible inaccuracies and biases of algorithms used to gather data from the platforms and the effect on those searching for health information on the internet.
A testimony by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and recent regulatory initiatives like the internet safety bill announced within the U.K. reveal that there is a general concerned about the impact of technology platforms in shaping opinions and discourse. Musk’s possible bid for Twitter is a sign of a myriad of regulatory issues.
Due to Musk’s other business ventures the ability of Twitter to influence public opinion in the delicate sectors of aviation as well as the auto industry would cause a conflict of interest in addition to affecting the disclosure of important information that shareholders require. Musk has been accused of putting off the disclosure of his stake on Twitter.
Twitter’s algorithmic bias bounty contest found that there must be a collaborative method to develop more efficient algorithms. An extremely creative challenge created in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab asks middle school students to redesign the YouTube platform with ethical considerations in mind. It might be time to ask Twitter to follow suit who owns and runs the company.