Elon Musk said at a TED interview on Thursday that he has a Plan B for Twitter, given that the board did not accept Musk’s offer to purchase the platform outright. He did not elaborate.
“So, you know,” said the TED interviewer, “a few hours ago, you made an offer to buy Twitter. Why?”
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“I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” said Musk. “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square. So it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law and so one of the things that I believe Twitter should do is open source the algorithm and make any changes to people’s tweets or they are emphasized or de-emphasized that action should be made apparent so you anyone can see that has been taken. So there’s no sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually.”
“I think it’s important to the function of democracy, for the function of the United States as a free country. And in many other countries and actually to help freedom in the world more broadly than the US.
“I think there’s the risk, civilizational risk is decreased if Twitter, the more we can increase the trust of Twitter as a public platform. And so, I do think this will be somewhat painful and I’m not sure that I will actually be able to, to acquire it. And I should also say that the intent is to retain as many shareholders as is allowed by the law in a private company, which I think has run 2,000 or so. So, it’s not like it’s definitely not, not from the standpoint of let me figure out how to monopolize or maximize my ownership of Twitter. We’ll try to bring along as many shoulders as we, as we’re allowed to,” he said, noting that he could technically afford the full buy.
“This is a this is not a way to sort of make money. You know, I think this is, it’s just that I think this is just— my strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted, and broadly inclusive, is extremely important to the future of civilization. I don’t care about the economics at all,” Musk continued.
“You’ve described yourself Elon as a free speech absolutist. But does that mean that there’s literally nothing that people can’t say, and it’s okay?” The interviewer asked.
“Well, I think, obviously, Twitter or any forum is bound by the laws of the country that it operates in,” Musk responded. “So obviously, there are some limitations on free speech in the US. And of course, Twitter would have to abide by those rules sets out so you can’t incite people to violence like that the adult incitement to violence you can’t do the equivalent of crying fire in a movie theater, for example,” he said, bringing up the classic example of things one cannot legally say.
“Twitter should match the laws of the country. And really, you know, there’s an obligation to do that.” He said that what’s really needed on the platform is transparency, for users to know what decisions are being made, why, and who is making them.
“But going beyond that, and having it be unclear who’s making what changes to who to what to wear, having tweets sort of mysteriously being promoted and demoted, with no insight into what’s going on. Having a black box algorithm promotes some things and other not other things. I think this can be quite dangerous. So the idea of opening the algorithm is a huge deal.
“And I think many people would, would welcome that, of understanding exactly how it’s making the decision and could critique it and, I think like, the code should be on GitHub, you know, so people can look through it and say, like, ‘I see a problem here,’ ‘I don’t agree with this,'” said Musk.
He said that if a tweet was potentially iffy, or in a “gray area,” he says he would “let the tweet exist.”
“I’m not saying I have all the answers here,” Musk said. “But I do think that we want to be just very reluctant to delete things and have just been very cautious with bans and suspensions, preferring temporary timeouts.”