There is Elon Musk He’s managed to piss off just about everyone on Twitter, and even the right-wingers who hailed him as the savior of “free speech” are in an uproar after he announced what appears to be a shadow ban policy on the platform.
Twitter is currently held together by a digital ribbon and a skeleton crew of employees after Musk sparked mass resignations among the platform’s already severely reduced staff. Despite internal emails that say Musk asked remaining employees to fly to San Francisco and help him “understand the Twitter tech stack,” the billionaire is still making policy announcements about his favorite topic: content moderation.
“The new Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of speech,” Musk tweeted. “Negative/hateful tweets will be minimized and demonetized, so there will be no advertising or other revenue on Twitter. You won’t find tweets unless you’re specifically looking for them, which is no different than the rest of the Internet.”
“Shadow ban” is the arbitrary suppression of a user’s profile or content by the platform outside of established content moderation mechanisms and without the user’s knowledge. Twitter has reported this before don’t be busy shadow ban, however, varies among conservatives internet trolls for federal legislators they have repeatedly accused the platform of suppressing their opinions. Research has debunked this idea, showing that the opposite is true and that conservative content performs better on mainstream social media platforms.
Musk’s new policy appears to effectively codify the practice into Twitter’s functionality.
Conservative commentators flocked to Musk’s remarks after he announced his intention to buy Twitter in the spring, hoping to influence the platform’s new direction. Musk tries to reassure them, but there are plenty of clues that he’s not as committed to “free speech” as he’d like them to believe. He quickly came up with a plan to algorithmically prioritize paid subscribers, said it would take some time to get banned users back, and began firing employees who criticized him.
The right was outraged by some of this, but Friday’s announcement sparked a new outcry that he is backtracking on his promises.
“How is this different from the previous policy?” he answered conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey. “People’s tweets are suppressed because some random biased tweet on twitter thinks it’s mean or crazy?”
Other pundits, including a right-wing YouTuber Lauren Chen and Fox News host Will Cain, demanded to know exactly what Musk would define as “negative/hateful tweets.” The Daily Wire’s Matt Wash, always on the anti-transgender crusade, he asked is it still ‘negative/hateful’ to refer to a biological person as male?
“That’s your business,” replied former Republican-Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash, “but free speech includes speech that challenges and sometimes offends others. … Making it harder to find ‘negative’ tweets harms this process and cannot be applied uniformly.”
Along with the new content model, Musk announced that he has reinstated the accounts of Jordan Peterson, Kathy Griffin, and The Babylon Bee, but has yet to make a decision on unbanning Donald Trump. One user asked Musk if he would restore the account of InfoWars founder and Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones, and he said no. Many accounts of this have been seized upon as proof that Musk’s true commitment to “free speech” is a sham.
“Elon’s free speech claim is fast becoming nonsense” he tweeted conservative broadcaster Tim Pool. Chen wrote that Musk had “already hit a hornet’s nest” and his desire to pick and choose who would be reinstated was “drag it out with former activists and regime entities available to him.” YouTuber Viva Frei added that if Musk refuses to reinstate Jones, it will oblige him. no better More so than previous Twitter CEOs Jack Dorsey and Parag Agrawal.
The incredulous reaction of the online community, who pushed Musk to buy Twitter and hail him as freeing him from his imaginary shackles, is laughable when contrasted with the obvious reality that Musk has no idea what he’s doing. His takeover of Twitter was a disaster that now threatens to bleed into his other companies, Tesla and SpaceX. What is clear is that Twitter is changing fundamentally and rapidly, and conservatives are pursuing their dreams of a libertarian, rule-free utopia, one Musk tweet at a time.