Self-destructing on Twitter: How Skinner’s behavioural psychologist develops a Skinner box to generate compulsive behavior
Mr. Musk is becoming isolated as the steward of the finances with his user management on the platform. We see potential for a negative feedback loop from departure of Twitter advertisers and users,” Oppenheimer analyst Colin Rusch wrote to clients.
More than utility ties me to the site. Twitter hooks people in much the same way slot machines do, with what experts call an “intermittent reinforcement schedule.” Most of the time, it’s repetitive and uninteresting, but occasionally, at random intervals, some compelling nugget will appear. Unpredictable rewards, as the behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner found with his research on rats and pigeons, are particularly good at generating compulsive behavior.
An anthropologist at New York University and author of a book on gambling machine design said she had not heard of a Skinner box being created. She said that is essentially what they have built. People who regularly self-destruct on the site should be aware that they cannot stay away.
The Musk-Small-Acquisition of Twitter: The Case for a Resilient, Active and Engaging-Client-Free Social Media
A source told CNN that Musk has completed his $46 billion acquisition of the social media site.
The acquisition also promises to extend Musk’s influence. The billionaire already owns, oversees or has significant stakes in companies developing cars, rockets, robots and satellite internet, as well as more experimental ventures such as brain implants. He has taken over the social media platform that Shapes how many people communicate and get their news.
Musk also pledged to “defeat the spam bots or die trying,” referring to the fake and scam accounts that are often especially active in the replies to his tweets and those of others with large followings on the platform.
Within weeks of the acquisition agreement, however, Musk began raising concerns about the prevalence of those same fake and spam accounts on Twitter and ultimately attempted to terminate the deal.
Some of the initial anger and media attention about the deal have faded in the months since it closed. Though controversy remains, many Twitter users may feel less urgency to jump ship today than in late October.
Delaware Chancery Court chancellor Kathaleen St. Judge McCormick gave the parties until 5 p.m. on Oct. 28 to close the deal or face a rescheduled trial.
Dismantling the tech landscape: a case of misinformation, radicalization, and censorship in the morning of the big bang
Piazza believes that a rise in misinformation and radicalization on social media platforms could be bad business for a platform with mainstream appeal. The communities are flooded by objectionable material and are not really usable. “People will gravitate to other platforms.”
“The long-term potential for Twitter, in my view, is an order of magnitude greater than its current value,” he said on Tesla’s earnings conference call last week.
This article was first published in theReliable Sources newsletter. The daily digest is dedicated to the evolving media landscape.
Many news outlets got back to their actual job, which was to report on what the Trump administration was actually doing, even if it was only for a brief moment. Over the past few weeks, though, news habits from the early Trump years have resurfaced around Elon Musk.
In fact, not only has Musk himself contaminated the information environment he now reigns over, but he is apparently working to dismantle the little infrastructure erected to help users sift through the daily chaos. Recent news reports show that he plans to take away their blue verified badges if they don’t pay.
Charging for verified badges might appear at first glance as a business story. The move has significant ramifications on the information landscape. Most notably, it will make it much more difficult for users to distinguish from authentic and inauthentic accounts.
Conservatives don blue badges but the right sees “blue checks” as a sign of snobbery, even though many conservatives also don blue badges. Taking away the free blue checks and giving up the authority they have made conservatives happy will certainly delight them.
How Free Should Social Media Be? Observational Constraints to Musk’s Promise to “Save the Bird” and Threats in the Great Lakes
In addition to saving social networks, the internet, civil discourse, democracy, email, and reduction of hacking would be the best thing one could do, according to Walter Isaacson, Musk’s authorized biographer.
When billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk made a promise last week that the bird is freed, Felix Ndahida knew a threat was on the horizon.
Ndahinda has trained in international law and works in Tilburg, Netherlands as a consultant on issues pertaining to conflict and peace in the African Great Lakes region. He has already seen what a ‘free’ Twitter can do. For years, he has been tracking the social-media hate speech that swirls amid armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo1. The platforms that have systems to identify harmful content went undetected because there was not a built in screening of the languages that were shared with it.
In a blog post last week, Twitter said it had not changed its policies but that its approach to enforcement would rely heavily on de-amplification of violative tweets, something that Twitter already did, according to both the company’s previous statements and Weiss’ Friday tweets. “Freedom of speech,” the blog post stated, “not freedom of reach.”
The bans raise a number of questions about the future of the platform, which has been referred to as a digital town square. It raised the serious question of Musk’s commitment to free speech.
Normally, these platforms are where false narratives start, says Stringhini. The narratives that get onto mainstream platforms explode. “They get pushed on Twitter and go out of control because everybody sees them and journalists cover them,” he says.
James Piazza, who studies terrorism at Pennsylvania State University, says that he’s frightened when people on social media use inflammatory Speech that dehumanizes people. There is a chance that you can have more violence.
Over the coming weeks, Stringhini expects that researchers will launch studies comparing Twitter before and after Musk’s takeover, and looking at changes in the spread of disinformation, which user accounts are suspended, and whether Twitter users quit the platform in protest at new policies. Tromble will be monitoring campaigns of harassment on the micro-site.
A Girl Who Isn’t a Bot: James Austin Trump, the Covid PLANdemic, and the Truth Social Network
“The Covid PLANdemic was created by Big Pharma to silence me. Everybody tries to silence me,” she said. “Ma’am, please speak at a lower volume. I’m sorry, am I too loud for your precious intensive care unit? You aren’t sick!
“Hi. Oh my god, your profile is so funny. I love funny guys,” Schumer, dressed in a red dress, said as the bot. I am crazy that they said I was a bot. I’m all woman and I love funny guys like you. You should visit this website where I and some other girls hang out.
But the most notable person to speak in front of the council: former president Donald Trump, played by James Austin Johnson. Trump had his account banned in 2021.
“Yes, we’ve all moved to Truth Social, and we love Truth Social. It’s very great,” Johnson’s Trump said. “And in many ways, also terrible. It is very bad. Very, very bad. It is a little buggy in that you can not make a phone screen crack and you have to use the Venmo.
What’s in Twitter? How to Let Your Own Thoughts Get the Word out of Your Opinion, Saying What Elon Musk Means
It feels like tiny talk is coming from your own thoughts, says Musk, after launching his speech at 10 pm last Thursday. Congratulations: We all live in Tiny Talk Town now, where all conversation is about Elon Musk.
In the workplace, quiet quitting is rejecting the burden of going above and beyond, no longer working overtime in a way that enriches your employer but depletes your own metaphorical coffers. On Twitter, it’s about not giving more to a platform than most people can expect to get back. You have to find a way to use it without using you in order to stick with it.
There is a small group of people who are in charge of it. Heavy users who use English are more likely to account for less than ten percent of monthly users but they generate 90 percent of all revenue, internal company research shows.
It would be simple for an electric carentrepreneur to make a mistake if he followed a lot of extremely active blue checks, as he would be a noisy bunch. (Same goes for journalists.) In reality, nearly half of Twitter users tweet less than five times a month, and most of their posts are replies, not original tweets. They check in on current events or live sports or celebrity news, and then they go about their lives. They are referred to as lurkers.
When people were stuck at home and struggling to find information on the internet, scowling was a practice that took hold. Choosing to lurk, to sit back and observe for a while, is basically a heuristic and simplistic approach to dealing with the complexity and chaos that is New Twitter. Check in on Elon Musk’s new toy, sure, then close your app or browser tab. Send a tweet, then disengage. Keep one eye on it during basketball games. Direct the message threads to other places if you have to. It’s time to save your most original thoughts for another place.
The same analysis found that after Musk took over, the most popular messages became more threatening than before. For tweets using words associated with anti-LGBTQ+ or antisemitic posts, seven of the top 20 posts in each category were now hateful. For popular tweets using potentially racist language, one of the top 20 was judged to be hate speech.
Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk on Thursday said he plans to introduce an option to make it possible for users to determine if the company has limited how many other users can view their posts. The social network has come under increasing attack from conservatives who claim that they’ve been suppressed or shadowbanned.
“Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal,” Musk tweeted on Thursday. He did not provide additional details or a timetable.
The second set of the so-calledTwitter Files, which was share by journalist Bari Weiss on Twitter, focused on how the company restricted the reach of certain accounts and banned certain topics that it deems potentially harmful.
In both cases, the internal documents appear to have been provided directly to the journalists by Musk’s team. Musk on Friday shared Weiss’ thread in a tweet and added, “The Twitter Files, Part Duex!!” along with two popcorn emojis.
Twitter Files: What Has Elon Musk Learned? An Update on Yoel Roth, whose Twitter handles right-leaning figures, and the nature of their information warfare
Weiss offered several examples of right-leaning figures who had moderation actions taken on their accounts, but it’s not clear if such actions were equally taken against left-leaning or other accounts.
Twitter’s former head of trust and safety has fled his home due to an escalation in threats resulting from Elon Musk’s campaign of criticism against him, a person familiar with the matter told CNN on Monday.
Yoel Roth, who resigned from the social media company in November, has in recent weeks faced a storm of attacks and threats of violence following the release of the so-called “Twitter Files” — internal Twitter communications that new owner Musk has released through journalists including Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.
Tweets posted by Roth in 2016 and 2017 that were critical of then-President Trump and his supporters were later surfaced and used to argue that Roth and Twitter were biased against the president.
While on election day, he wrote a post that read, “I’m just saying, we fly over those states that voted for a racist for a reason.”
“We’ve all made some questionable tweets, me more than most, but I want to be clear that I support Yoel. Musk stated that he thought he had high integrity and everyone was entitled to their political beliefs.
The establishment press, however, has shown far less interest in the documents themselves, with most news organizations outright ignoring various entries in the continuing series. The right-wing media said that the story is being pushed by the mainstream press because they want to hide the truth.
The former editor of The Wall Street Journal wrote Monday that there was nothing new found in the Twitter files. There’s no shocking revelation in there about government censorship or covert manipulation by political campaigns. They bring the deliberations of the company to the surface in ways that are consistent with its values.
It can be hard to comprehend what is happening if you are a regular person. And the solution isn’t so clear. On one hand, if newsrooms covered each installment, they risk giving air to and further amplifying a storyline that has been selectively framed by Musk as he wages an information war. He can define it in a public square if he doesn’t dissection each drop.
I said to my colleagues in the newsroom that we couldn’t cover everything he said and did not want to get into a debate over it. It was assumed that the president’s every word was a signal of future policy and was reported as such. Trump, on the other hand, clearly said many things purely to get a rise out of people. I argued that reporting on them just fed the fire. Another editor pushed back. He said he was the president. “What he says is news.”
This is precisely the way coverage of Trump worked. The right-wing media treated the obvious egomania, corruption, and lack of interest in grasping basic policy of the president of the United States as if he were a criminal, while the liberal media reported on his fitness to be president and what it would take for him to succeed. There was plenty of good reporting going on at the same time, but these polarizing accounts tended to dominate the conversation. The public had to accept incompatible narratives about the behavior of a man in the White House as their reason for understanding what was happening across the country.
This is what’s happening with Musk and Twitter. Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic describes a “dysfunctional relationship between Twitter’s new owner and so many of the journalists who cover him … where the least defensible statements and claims on all sides are relentlessly amplified in a never-ending cycle that predictably fuels disdain and negative polarization.”
The journalists who were suspended from their accounts because of Musk’s leadership of the site were criticized on Thursday by press freedom advocates.
The existence of these discussions is a smoking gun for many conservatives and Musk fans. The fact that many mainstream outlets are steering clear of covering the Twitter Files without a large degree of skepticism is only fueling righteous indignation.
“People who are facing high-stakes, unforeseen events and trying to figure out what policies apply and how are the ones who are coming through in the twitter files for me,” said Renée DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, who studies how narratives spread on social networks
They show employees at the company grappling with tradeoffs, questioning the company’s rules, and sometimes getting things wrong.
But while the accounts were made publicly viewable on Saturday, the journalists were restricted from posting until they removed the tweets Musk had claimed violated Twitter’s rules.
The Twitter Files might not be the bombshell Musk teased in popcorn emoji laden tweets – but they offer an illuminating glimpse into the sausage-making of content moderation.
Right before the 2020 election, Twitter temporarily blocked users from sharing a New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who is accused of shady business dealings.
The files from Biden’s laptop were the basis for the article, which was based upon information from Giuliani and Bannon. At the time, it was unclear whether that material was authentic. After being burned by the Russian hack and leak of Democratic National Committee emails in 2016, tech companies were on edge over the possibility of a repeat – and so Twitter decided to restrict the Post story.
The company said that sharing hacked materials containing private information could be harmful and warned anyone trying to get a link to an article from it. The New York Post suspended its own account on the micro-blogging website because it wrote about the story. It was too bad that Facebook wasn’t as concerned by the article as it was. It allowed the link to be posted, but limited distribution of those posts while its outside fact-checkers reviewed the claims.)
A huge backlash occurred across the political spectrum after Twitter’s aggressive stance. While the company was lambasted for taking a heavy handed approach to the story that was reported by a major news outlet, it was also lambasted for giving little justification for its decision. Within days Twitter reversed the block and changed its policies on hacked materials. Jack said that the company had made a mistake.
And it does not show any evidence that there was government involvement in the move to block the New York Post story, despite assertions by Musk and others.
“I continue to believe there was no ill intent or hidden agendas, and everyone acted according to the best information we had at the time,” he wrote. “Of course mistakes were made.”
He said that he wish the internal files had been released in a way that gave more people a chance to look at them. He added: “There’s nothing to hide…only a lot to learn from.”
Twitter is “chilling”: What we’ve learned from the “Secret Knowledge” of the Musk White House after the Trump Decree
DiResta said there’s good reason to demand more insight into how social media companies operate. “Often these decisions are quite inscrutable,” she said. “These platforms have a big impact on public opinion and so the question of how they’re moderated and how they’re designed is important.”
But she said to get the full picture, outsiders need more than the “anecdotes” Musk’s selected journalists are sharing – which, so far, focus exclusively on charged, highly partisan American political dramas.
It would be beneficial to see discussions around other world leaders who have not been kicked off the platform to better understand the reasons for banning Trump.
“It’s worth pointing out that the public knows a lot about what’s happened, but they’re mostly reinforcing a perception that’s been built up based on your prior political opinions in the United States,” DiResta said.
A researcher at the University of Washington said that framing the disclosures as secret knowledge is a good idea.
He sent a violent threat against both men. Roth and his family have been forced to flee their home, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“The current attacks on my former colleagues could be dangerous and doesn’t solve anything,” Dorsey wrote on Tuesday. “If you want to blame, direct it at me and my actions, or lack thereof.”
He has made deep cuts to the company’s trust and safety workforce, including teams focused on non-English languages and state-backed propaganda operations. This week, Twitter disbanded its external Trust and Safety Council, some of whose members had come under online attack after Musk criticized them.
The CEO’s willingness to target people that work on keeping the platform safe is causing a “chilling effect” according to a member of the Trust and Safety Council.
“It is being processed as punitive and sort of owning the last regime, as opposed to saying, ‘Here are things that we can see in these files and here is how it’s going to be done differently under our watch,'” DiResta said.
The Covid-19 Discrimination Against Journalism: The New Mastodon Twitter Rules Are Unresolved and a Reply to Rupar
A New York Times spokesperson called the mass bans “questionable and unfortunate,” adding: “Neither The Times nor Ryan have received any explanation about why this occurred. We hope that all of the journalists’ accounts are reinstated and that Twitter provides a satisfying explanation for this action.”
The false claim of the journalists violating the new “doxxing” policy was made on Thursday by Musk.
O’ Sullivan said that Mastodon, an emerging competitive social media service, had been suspended by Twitter and that it allowed the posting of Elonjet, an account that shows the location of Musk’s private jet.
There are many people who believe that free speech is at risk, so it’s not wise to ban journalists without clear standards or clear communication.
The president of the Society of Professional Journalists said in a statement it was concerned about the move and that it affects all journalists.
The changes came after Musk reinstated previous Twitter rule-breakers and stopped enforcing the platform’s policies prohibiting Covid-19 misinformation.
Those reports were confirmed Thursday evening by a CNN reporter who was blocked from sharing a Mastodon profile URL and was given an automated error message that said Twitter or its partners had identified the site as “potentially harmful.”
Reporters whose accounts were suspended include Donie O’Sullivan of CNN; Ryan Mac of the New York Times; Drew Harwell of the Washington Post; Micah Lee of the Intercept; and journalist Aaron Rupar.
In a post on Substack, Rupar wrote that he is unsure why he was suspended. He said he did tweet on Wednesday a link to a Facebook page for the jet-tracking account.
Why Social Media Is On Fire: Why EldonJet Is on Fire: How We Can Reclaim Our Role in Social Media
Nora Benavidez, senior counsel at the advocacy group Free Press, echoed Jaffer’s remarks, saying suspending journalists based seemingly on personal animus “sets a dangerous precedent.”
In a statement, the head of Trust & Safety for twitter said sharing real-time location information is a violation of the company’s policies.
I can confirm that the accounts that violate our privacy policies and put other users at risk will be suspended. “We don’t make any exceptions to this policy for journalists or any other accounts.”
Musk claimed that a 20-year-old University of Florida student who ran the handle EldonJet was used by a stalker to follow a car carrying one of Musk’s children.
The new approach will have a long-term impact. Journalists have helped keep the platform relevant despite its small size relative to competitors like Facebook: They fuel the platform with free, vetted content when news breaks and speculation and rumors swirl.
Kara Alaimo, an associate professor at the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, writes about issues affecting women and social media. Her book “This Feed Is on Fire: Why Social Media Is Toxic for Women and Girls — And How We Can Reclaim It” will be published by Alcove Press in 2024. The opinions are of her own. Continue reading on CNN for more opinions.
Reliable information should be found in a healthy town square. But researchers at Tufts University recently found that tweets refuting hate and misinformation were “an order of magnitude greater” on Twitter before Musk took over.
The research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin said social media platforms and their impact on society have always been difficult to study, despite the end of years of relative transparency. The problem has always been centered around the curious position social platforms hold in society: They’re quasi-public utilities—the “de facto public town square” that Musk crowed about when he first launched his bid to buy the platform—but are privately owned.
The move from Musk was in response to a survey he conducted on his personal account, in which a large number of participants voted in favor of immediately restoring the accounts.
On Thursday night, Twitter’s Spaces conference chat went down shortly after Musk abruptly signed out of a session hosted by a journalist during which he had been questioned about the reporters’ ousting. The space was taken offline to deal with a bug. Late Friday, Spaces returned.
Hours before the poll was completed and the accounts were reinstated, Musk declared today “freedom Friday” in response to former congressional candidate Lavern Spicer’s comment that accounts were being reinstated at an increasingly fast pace. Several prominent right-to-far-right figures were unsuspended on Friday, including MyPillow founder Mike Lindell and Gateway Pundit editor Jim Hoft, as noted by Shayan Sardarizadeh, a reporter for the BBC. Musk claimed that the results of a poll are causing him to make good on his promise to give most previously-suspended accounts general amnesty.
On Friday evening, Musk wrote on the site that the suspensions would be lifted following the results of the public poll. The poll showed that almost six out of ten respondents favored a move to unsuspend accounts immediately, with 4 out of ten saying the suspensions should be lifted in seven days.
Many advertisers abandoned Twitter over content moderation questions after Musk acquired it in October, and he now risks a rupture with media organizations, which are among the most active on the platform.
Twitter is under a new regime: The suspended Business Insider journalist Linette Lopez, whose stories about Musk have been published in Los Angeles and the Washington Post
Most of the accounts were back early Saturday. Linette Lopez, a Business Insider journalist, was suspended with no explanation for her actions, she told The Associated Press.
She said that Musk was threatening workers who wouldn’t make rent payments and who spoke to the media, in the same day she cited the reports that Musk was reneging on severance for laid-off employees. Lopez said his actions were similar to a piece of behavior that was going forbroke.
The move sets “a dangerous precedent at a time when journalists all over the world are facing censorship, physical threats and even worse,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Several of the reporters suspended Thursday night had been writing about the new policy and Musk’s rationale for imposing it, which involved his allegations about a stalking incident he said affected his family Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
The Washington Post’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, said technology reporter Drew Harwell “was banished without warning, process or explanation” following the publication of accurate reporting about Musk.
The journalist, who works for the news outlet Mashable, was immediately banned after sharing a screen grab from O’Sullivan’s post.
The screenshot showed a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department sent earlier Thursday to multiple media outlets, including the AP, about how it was in touch with Musk’s representatives about the alleged stalking incident.
He has promised to allow free speech and has removed accounts that have had bad things to say about other people. He has also said he would suppress negativity and hate by depriving some accounts of “freedom of reach.”
“The old regime at Twitter governed by its own whims and biases and it sure looks like the new regime has the same problem,” she tweeted “I oppose it in both cases.”
If the suspensions lead to the exodus of media organizations that are highly active on Twitter, the platform would be changed at the fundamental level, said Lou Paskalis, longtime marketing and media executive and former Bank of America head of global media.
CBS briefly shut down its activity on Twitter in November due to “uncertainty” about new management, but media organizations have largely remained on the platform.
The suspension of Musk may be the biggest red flag yet for advertisers because some of them have already cut their spend on the platform because of uncertainty about where Musk is going.
Advertisers are keeping an eye on the possibility of users leaving the micro-blogging site. According to Insider Intelligence’s predictions, over the next two years, the number of users on the micro-messaging service will drop by more than 30 million.
“A platform cannot continue to go viral perpetually,” Rochko recently told CNN about Mastodon’s sagging user numbers. After a while, the cycle of media news and attention on social media just goes away, but behind it, you can still see organic growth, which was what we had before November.
The Twitter CEO Problem: Why Did Elon Musk Bounce and How Did He Hele himself Move On? A Critical Response to Musk’s Tweet to CNN
New Twitter owner Elon Musk offered several of the journalists he banned from the social media website earlier this week the ability to return to the platform if they deleted the tweets he falsely claimed shared his “exact real-time” location.
He wrote, “It’s journalism,” in his appeal, which was provided to CNN. Harwell added that his tweet did not include a “link to anyone’s private information.”
The whole affair was ridiculous, but he told CNN that he had decided to simply remove the post and move on with his life.
The network had asked for an explanation from the social media platform and would review their relationship because of that response.
A poll was posted by Musk asking people to vote on whether he should step down as chief executive officer of the messaging service. Musk said that he would abide by the results.
Musk replied to a question about whether or not he was happy with his new job, in which Fridman said he would become the CEO.
Oppenheimer & Co. downgraded its rating on Tesla, where Musk is the CEO, solely because of risks posed by the billionaire’s ownership and management of Twitter.
Oppenheimer specifically cited Twitter’s decision last week to ban several journalists, including CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, as a catalyst for the downgrade.
The analyst said that a backlash against Musk, caused by the inconsistent standards application, will hurt his company.
Ross Gerber, a shareholder in both Twitter and Tesla, said over the weekend that he hopes Musk finds a CEO for Twitter during the first quarter of 2023.
WIRED has written frequently of late about Elon Musk’s Twitter, so forgive me for coming back to it—but for those of us as terminally online as I am, let me just ask: What the hell happened last weekend?
I woke up on Sunday to discover that I would not be able to find any mention of these services on the social networking site, as a result of their decision to block all mentions of them. It was claimed to be about “preventing free advertising” of the platform’s competitors and to “cut down on spam.” You wouldn’t need a journalist to tell you that: the link ban was mainly about stemming the flow of active and popular users to other platforms while controlling speech in the name of Musk.
When we at WIRED talk about “platforms and power,” this is what we’re talking about. Any steward of any platform, no matter who it is, has the unenviable job of setting and expelling the policies and guidelines for safe and legal use. That’s not in question. Without such rules, online spaces can go bad fast. When platforms choose to actively harm users through policy decisions, and when the changes are large enough to force users to adapt or abandon ship, is that an issue?
My friends on twitch interrupted their streams to talk about the news and worried that if they didn’t have a Tweets or a link to their bio viewers wouldn’t notice them. All of these things make it possible for lost income to be created for people who really need it. The kind of disruptive entrepreneurial spirit that everyone in Silicon Valley claims to want to foster and empower is what these same creators have.
After Sarah Oh lost her JOB as a HUMAN RIGHTS ADVISER at TWmt late last year, she decided to join a friend in building a rival service.
She launched T2 with Gabor Cselle, who had previously worked at TWITTER and GOOGLE. Like Twitter, it offers a social feed of posts with 280-character limits. Its focus on safety is the key selling point according to Oh.
We want to create an experience that allows people to share what they want to share, without fearing abuse or harassment, and we feel like we are well prepared to deliver on that, because we have the right balance of risk and reward.
In the months since Musk completed his takeover, a small but growing number of services have launched or gained traction by appealing to users who are uncomfortable with the billionaire’s decisions to slash Twitter’s staff, rethink content moderation policies and reinstate numerous incendiary accounts that were previously banned, among other moves.
Some of the newer entrants include apps created by former Twitter employees and a startup backed by one of Musk’s investors. Some apps like T2 have a similar look, while others take a different approach.
The Artifact news feed was announced last month by the founders of IG, and it was immediately compared to another social media site. In CNN’s recent test of the app, however, it resembled news reader applications like Apple News or the defunct Google Reader. Artifact displayed popular articles from large media organizations and smaller bloggers in a main feed, tailored to users based on their activity and selected interests.
But all of these apps appear to be vying for the opportunity to scratch the itch users may feel for a news feed that isn’t Twitter — at least for as long as that itch lasts.
“Something that we’ve heard a lot from people who are moving over from Twitter, either partially or fully, is that it is just for them a nicer experience overall,” said Jae Kaplan, co-founder of Anti Software Software club, the group that develops Cohost, a text-based social media feed similar to Twitter. The service launched publicly in June of last year, after Musk offered to buy Twitter. Within 48 hours after Musk completed his takeover, 80,000 people were added to the platform.
“People have been referring to us when they do as a Twitter alternative, which I think is an important distinction from a Twitter replacement,” Kaplan said.
In November, shortly after taking over the company, Musk repeatedly claimed Twitter continued to hit “all-time high” user numbers despite the initial wave of users calling to abandon the social network. (As part of the acquisition, Musk took Twitter private and the company no longer reports user numbers in quarterly securities filings.)
“If people leave, where do they go? Karen North, a clinical professor at the USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said that there is no platform right now that is able to take on the function of this social networking site. “No platform has the global user base, representing people from all walks of life the way that Twitter does.”
On February 13, Twitter is expected to end free access to its API, or application programming interface, the backend access that lets people build bots to automatically post and respond to tweets on the site. Elon Musk, who took over Twitter in October last year, has long said he wants to scour the platform of bots, and has said that charging a minimum of $100 a month to access the API will “clean things up greatly.”
The risks of granting researchers access to social networks’ data makes it difficult for them to do so. If an academic uses free access to a platform’s API to identify a massive issue with state-sponsored disinformation, or problems with content moderation that allow hate speech to fester unchecked, it could cause headaches for the site. Many social media platforms choose to restrict researchers from analyzing their platforms, or put excessive prices on getting access to their platforms, as a result of this. That dependence is an “intolerable situation for independent research,” says Lorenz-Spreen.
In the past few weeks alone, academic researchers have used free API access to track all activity on the platform in a 24-hour period, map how insurrectionists who tried to overthrow the US government on January 6, 2021 coordinated on the platform—and even estimate the proportion of users that are bots on the platform. This kind of research will no longer be easy.
David Lazer is a computational social scientist at Northeastern University. “Twitter had been the most common source of data for studying the information ecosystem, especially misinformation, to understand what content was flowing out there and why.”
How Do Social Media Users Get Their Knowledge? When Musk and I Learned to Tell Them How to Get Their Research Published on Arxiv
Cambridge Analytica gained access to the data of millions of Facebook users after being hired by the social media giant.
A member of the iDRAMA lab, a team that monitors hate speech on social media, says there is a lack of understanding of how academic funding works. “At worst it’s an attempt to grift more taxpayer money via federal funding agencies like he’s done with his other companies.”
Two years ago, in a move that is perhaps the most ambitious attempt at transparency in the tech industry, Twitter launched what is certainly the most ambitious attempt at algorithmic transparency. Its researchers wrote papers showing that Twitter’s AI system for cropping images in tweets favored white faces and women, and that posts from the political right in several countries, including the US, UK, and France, received a bigger algorithmic boost than those from the left.
As a result of the uncertainty surrounding their research under Musk, the researchers decided it was too little, too late to get their work published in an academic journal or a company post. So less than three weeks before Musk finally assumed ownership on October 27, they rushed the moderation bias study onto the open-access service Arxiv, where scholars post research that has not yet been peer reviewed.
“We were rightfully worried about what this leadership change would entail,” says Rumman Chowdhury, who was then engineering director on Twitter’s Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability group, known as META. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what ethics teams are supposed to do, instead of being scientific work.
A researcher speaking out of fear of being retaliated against says the team on another study worked through the night to make final edits before hitting Publish on Arxiv. The source said we knew the runway would be shut down when the aircraft came in. “We knew we needed to do this before the acquisition closed. We can stick a flag in the ground and say it exists.”