Elon Musk’s Twitter is what the world needs right now.
As an entrepreneur, Elon Musk has bought Twitter and will make decisions about where it is going on the job on the assumption that the founding principles that he has articulated, will see him through. And his founding statements on the face of it, are what the world needs.
Redirected to be a global modern communications hub, Twitter will be much more than a social media platform. It has the potential to kick over the corrupted global information order which has brought the world to the brink of ruin through climate change and war, and start to construct the force for good in the world that Elon Musk clearly envisages. It could expand and take on many desperately needed functions for the global citizens who have a plan, to be effective in the global arena. It could realise the potential that was purposefully built into the architecture of the internet at its inception.
Along with the edit button, there should be a vote button and a donate button. The potential moral and economic power of this development could dwarf the resources of any single nation.
An effective global social and political sphere with the reach and combined people resources of Twitter, could make enormous changes in a very short timeframe – exactly what climate change scientists are demanding as time runs out for our environment.
Elon Musk thinks like an engineer. SpaceX rockets don’t launch without a rational plan, and while people may criticise Elon Musk’s initiative and his motives, we can assume that he will not dismantle the functions of Twitter that make it so popular with users, but instead will consolidate and develop its good qualities.
Transparency of algorithms equals trust. Freedom of speech means everybody gets to have their say. But the authentication of people contributing, not bots, is a key initiative. Rather than testing information provided on Twitter, Musk is forcing responsibilities on those who post it. Taking this a step further, there will be penalties for lies and bad information. Whether these are naming and shaming, demanding use of an edit button, or exclusion, has yet to be seen. But lies and spin, false facts and trumped up allegations, don’t sit well with engineers. SpaceX rockets don’t launch on false constructs and irresponsible management.
We desperately need good leadership in the world at the moment, as global politics fractures into opposing world views, one of then fed by a monstrous construct of propaganda and conspiracy theories that feeds the frailties of humans. The United Nations has reached a showdown phase. Russia has exposed the UN’s powerlessness before the world, and even if sanctions and weapons supply mean that Ukraine wins against the Russian invasion, it may be impossible to bring the perpetrators of war crimes to justice. Yet we see the the global outpouring of support for Ukraine in its defence of freedom.
Elon Musk has a number of qualities that make him very well suited to be the break-out leader the world needs in creating a new clean information order based on reality. Importantly, he is not a nation state, just as rich as one.
Twitter has the potential to be a game-changing reliable source of information, debate, and global action, and I’d like to see it expanded into a global political AI in which climate change fighting strategies are generated.
Elon Musk is well versed in cyberethics: free speech, universality, transparency, and privacy, and is clearly sick of seeing these principles run over. He doesn’t need the money, and earlier comments he’s made indicate that he has decided that instead of giving a fish, he is going to provide a fishing rod as his legacy.
Earlier avoidance of the political arena on his part also indicate that he is aware that it is in the more nuanced areas of the current highly corrupted global political discourse where he is going to run into trouble. Stopping bots from supporting propaganda and disinformation is a good thing, but the rise of insidious bias in traditionally “objective” news media (Fox News for example) and the rise of uneducated populists (think Marjorie Taylor Greene) and the messaging of debased autocrats, means political discourse has become a battlefield. Merit has been supplanted by money across many political fields, and disastrous climate change is the outcome. Twitter is not immune to these influences.
Musk is inherently vulnerable himself. Are his close commercial contacts with China a risk? Can he take a continual battering from critics? This is where a good team comes into play, in support of a leader who has the courage to step up.
It is going to take more than Twitter to change the world, but there is plenty of potential here to start a cascade.