TL;DR: With Elon Musk offering to buy Twitter, the world’s richest person has revealed some of the changes he has planned for the platform, including open-sourcing its algorithm, addressing the spam problem, and being less restrictive when it comes to censoring users’ tweets.
Musk made his offer to buy Twitter yesterday following a series of events, including turning down a seat on the board, that suggested he had been planning the move since becoming its largest shareholder.
Musk revealed some of his plans for Twitter at a TED event in Vancouver. “A top priority I would have is eliminating the spam and spambots and bot armies that are on Twitter,” he said. “If I had a Dogecoin for every crypto scam I saw.”
How would Elon Musk change Twitter if he were to buy it? First, he’d make it open source. Watch @ElonMusk‘s wide ranging live #TED2022 interview with @TEDChris on @YouTube here: https://t.co/dFFUxNqLZe pic.twitter.com/Okm3y5HpEy
— TED Talks (@TEDTalks) April 14, 2022
The Tesla boss also talked about his wish to open-source the Twitter algorithm. “One of the things I believe Twitter should do is open-source the algorithm and make any changes to people’s tweets – if they are emphasized or de-emphasized, that action should be made apparent. So anyone can see that action has been taken. So there’s no sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually.”
Musk has long criticized Twitter over claims it does not adhere to the principles of free speech. In his letter to Twitter board chairman Bret Taylor yesterday, he said his initial investment in Twitter was spurred by its “potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.”
Should Musk’s takeover bid succeed, he wants Twitter to take a more relaxed approach to moderating tweets. “If in doubt, let it exist,” he said. “In a case where there’s perhaps a lot of controversy, you would perhaps not want to promote that tweet. I’m not saying I have all the answers here. I do think that we want to be very reluctant to delete things and be very cautious with permanent bans. Timeouts are better.”
Musk has admitted that he faces obstacles in his bid to take over Twitter. The Wall Street Journal writes that Saudi royal Alwaleed bin Talal, one of Twitter’s largest shareholders, wrote, “I don’t believe that the proposed offer […] comes close to the intrinsic value of Twitter,” Other shareholders aren’t supporting Musk, either.
It’s been a hectic few weeks for Musk and Twitter. It was revealed on April 4 that he had acquired a 9.2% stake in the company on March 14; the delay in revealing his purchase has resulted in a class-action lawsuit. He then asked his followers if they wanted an edit button, which Twitter is now getting (though not because of Musk’s poll). Company CEO Parag Agrawal last week announced that Musk would be taking a seat on the board, limiting his ownership to 14.9% and preventing any hostile takeover attempt, but he turned the position down at the last minute—and now we know why.