Elon Musk is on a mission to shake up social media. Specifically, he wants to convert his newly acquired Twitter into a bastion of free speech. However, there are some flaws in his thinking.
Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are awash with fake news, spam, scams, and bots. Elon Musk wants an end to all this and is on a mission to turn things around for Twitter.
However, there is a fine line between truly free speech and censorship.
On Nov. 7, Elon Musk posted a flurry of tweets on his new platform. One of them was a mission statement to become “by far the most accurate source of information about the world.”
The billionaire CEO pushed his paid verification plans. They will “democratize journalism and empower the voice of the people,” according to Musk. However, judging by the reactions, he isn’t convincing netizens and journalists.
Last week, Musk revealed that the platform would start charging $8 per month for verified accounts (the blue badge). His thinking is that this will prevent spammers, impersonators, and fake accounts. In reality, there is nothing stopping any of these entities from paying the fee and becoming “verified.”
Michael Saylor suggested he could charge for different levels of verification, adding, “it would be good for business and good for the world.”
Nevertheless, the idea of charging journalists to become verified on Twitter has ruffled some feathers. Screenwriter Randi Mayem Singer said that it would not prove anything, just that you’ve paid for a badge. Dr. Ashley Winter responded:
“Journalists exist because they are professionals in communication. Muddying reliable sources doesn’t democratize information sharing, it makes it unreliable.”
Others said, “you can’t use the word ‘democratize’ or phrases like ’empower the voice of the people’ if you are charging money.”
Entrepreneur and tech leader Jeff Booth commented:
“Money is only information: Which by extension means that manipulation of money…ensures misinformation everywhere. The centralizing control of who gets to say what is a natural derivative of this. It can ONLY be fixed by fixing the money. #Bitcoin”
Twitter Users Seeking Alternatives
Twitter users have already started searching for alternatives. Those against Musk’s proposals are now promoting a site called Mastodon, which looks very similar.
According to the BBC, the social network has over 655,000 users. Furthermore, over 230,000 joined in the past week after the Twitter takeover.
Tweets are called “toots.” They can be posted, replied to, liked, and re-posted. Users can also follow each other as they do on Twitter.
Mastodon runs across several servers that are owned and operated by individuals and organizations on a collective decentralized network. This is the attraction, an account that cannot be closed by one centralized entity.
However, the downside is that it can be used to disseminate hate speech and abusive content, which is already happening. This is the thin line between free speech and censorship. In the real world, both have their drawbacks.
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