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Musk launches hostile takeover bid v Twitter.

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  • #61
    Racist tweets quickly surfaced after Musk closed Twitter deal

    An emboldened cast of anonymous trolls spewed racist slurs and Nazi memes onto Twitter in the hours after billionaire industrialist Elon Musk took over the social network Thursday, raising fears of how his pledge of unrestricted free speech could fuel a new wave of online hate.

    Twitter has struggled to enforce its rules against harassment and extremism, and the company has not yet published any broad-scale changes to its content-moderation policies.

    But Musk, a self-described "free speech absolutist," has fiercely criticized the company's previous leaders as overly rigid and suppressive and said he would work to overturn some of the company's main enforcement mechanisms, such as indefinitely suspending accounts.

    A wide range of anonymous Twitter accounts celebrated Musk's takeover and argued it meant the old rules against bigotry no longer applied.

    "Elon now controls twitter. Unleash the racial slurs. K—S AND N—S," said one account, using slurs for Jews and Black people. "I can freely express how much I hate n—s . . . now, thank you elon," another said.

    In a tweeted letter Thursday, Musk had sought to soothe advertisers worried over the moderation changes by saying he did not want it to become a "free-for-all hellscape."

    But the first hours of his purchase have shown how difficult that promise could be. One account, created this month, included a Nazi swastika as its profile picture and retweeted quotes from Musk alongside antisemitic memes. Another tweet, showing a video montage glorifying Nazi Germany with the comment, "I hear that there have been some changes around here," was liked more than 400 times.

    Racial slurs were posted rampantly overnight. One single-word tweet, showing a single racial slur in all capital letters, was retweeted more than 500 times and liked more than 4,000 times. It was tweeted at 9 p.m. Thursday night and remained online nearly 12 hours later.

    Some of the Twitter influx was organized on other platforms, including the pro-Trump forum TheDonald, where its top posts Friday morning showed tweets celebrating lies about Trump's 2020 election loss and memes criticizing transgender people under the headline "When you can't get banned on Twitter anymore."

    "Cold Meme War, Twatter Defenses Down, Fire Away," another poster said, attaching an image of a soldier with a rifle and a "Make America Great Again" hat.

    Musk's acquisition and almost-instant firing of its top executives was also widely celebrated in Telegram groups devoted to QAnon, the jumble of pro-Trump conspiracy theories. "Sometimes it takes a while, but the good guys win," one QAnon influencer wrote.

    Some Twitter rules, however, still appeared to apply. Stew Peters, a far-right conspiracy theorist and radio host who was banned from Twitter, created a new account Thursday night and posted, "I'm BAAAAAAAAAAACK." By Friday morning, however, the account had been suspended.

    But Musk's takeover is still fresh. After a right-wing influencer tweeted that he was still "shadowbanned, ghostbanned [and] searchbanned" on the platform, Musk tweeted Friday morning that he would "be digging in more today."

    Well that didn't take long at all....
    "Donald Trump and his supporters and allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy" ~ Judge J. Michael Luttig


    • #62
      After slashing headcount and sharing Paul Pelosi conspiracy theories, Elon Musk blames ‘activist groups’ for ‘a massive revenue drop’ at Twitter

      As Twitter began laying off what is expected to be as much as half of its workforce Friday, Elon Musk posted a rant about activist groups pressuring the company’s advertisers, saying those groups were responsible for a "massive drop in revenue.”

      “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” he wrote. “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”

      The outburst comes on the same day that Twitter is cutting its workforce nearly in half under Musk rule, and as advertising firms have become wary of Twitter of late, in part because of a dramatic rise in hate speech and conspiracy theories appearing in people’s timelines.

      The Anti-Defamation League said it found over 1,200 tweets and retweets with anti-Semitic memes on Twitter in a roughly 24-hour period after Musk took over the company. Instances of the N-word jumped by 500% in the 12 hours after he took over the platform. Twitter blamed the rise on a “trolling campaign,” saying more than 50,000 tweets repeatedly using “a particular slur” had come from just 300 accounts.

      IPG, which is one of the world’s largest advertising companies, has recommended its clients pause spending on Twitter, due to moderation concerns. The company’s clients include Walmart, American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, GoPro, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss & Co, Mattel and Spotify. It manages roughly $40 billion in marketing campaigns worldwide.

      An IPG representative told the New York Times its clients were planning to pause spending on Twitter until they had more clarity on (and confidence in) the social media site’s direction.

      Musk’s post, though, more likely is targeted at the more than 40 civil rights groups that sent an open letter to Twitter’s 20 top advertisers earlier this week, which read, in part, “If Elon Musk follows through with just a fraction of what he has already committed to doing, then Twitter will not and can not be a safe platform for brands.”

      The added drama comes as Twitter intends to start cutting staff Friday. The company announced the move in an email to employees late Thursday. Musk is expected to get rid of half the workforce, making good on plans to slash costs at the platform he acquired for $44 billion last month. The anticipated layoffs have already resulted in a class-action lawsuit, saying the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act prohibits Twitter from making mass layoffs without at least 60 days of advance notice.

      Musk has also posted particularly controversial tweets in the lead up to his Twitter acquisition, and after he took over.

      Just days after the deal closed, Musk tweeted a baseless and salacious conspiracy theory about a recent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

      "There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye," Musk wrote. He later deleted the tweet.

      In mid October, he posted, then deleted, a meme of himself and Kanye West, now known as Ye, after the rapper said he would buy Parler, a right-wing social media platform. He wrote under the meme, "Fun times ahead." He also posted a meme of himself, Ye, and former President Donald Trump portrayed as the Three Musketeers, each in charge of a social media platform.

      What a fucking moron....

      It's called free enterprise, asshole. Advertisers are voting with their wallets.
      "Donald Trump and his supporters and allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy" ~ Judge J. Michael Luttig


      • #63
        Early Twitter investor and Musk pal warns the billionaire is surrounded by ‘yes men’ and is ‘stoking insanity’

        One of the inevitable troubles of being a person with immense wealth and power is that you often find yourself surrounded by people who won’t call you out on a bad idea.

        Venture capitalist and early Twitter investor Chris Sacca warned Elon Musk that he is completely alone and is surrounding himself with people who won’t challenge his nonconformist ideas to transform Twitter into his vision of a free-speech social media haven.

        “One of the biggest risks of wealth/power is no longer having anyone around you who can push back, give candid feedback, suggest alternatives, or just simply let you know you're wrong,” Sacca, founder of Lowercase Capital and a friend of Elon Musk, wrote in a Twitter thread on Monday evening.

        Musk needs people around him who are willing to “speak some truth to power and complement his bold and ambitious instincts with desperately needed nuance,” Sacca argues, because many of Twitter's problems are too complex to solve on his own.

        Sacca concludes that Musk is “straight-up alone right now and winging this.”

        A social media company is harder to manage than a car company
        Musk has excelled in the areas of batteries, motors, rockets, tunnels, and solar panels, Sacca writes, because his “ability to note and question the assumptions implicit in the rest of our thinking is a rare type of genius I've only seen in the greatest minds.” But Sacca notes these industries have definitively right and wrong answers where success can be objectively measured, unlike a social media company, which has a lot more nuance.

        “Humans aren't math and physics problems. We are f**king messy,” Sacca says. He argues that Twitter won’t get better for users, advertisers won’t come back at scale, and Musk’s huge investment won’t pay off unless “there is genuine dialogue leading to thoughtful progress and stability.”

        However, this is not what is happening at Twitter. Over time, Sacca has watched those around Musk become increasingly sycophantic and opportunistic: “Simply put, agreeing with him is easier, and there is more financial & social upside.

        “I can’t sit by and watch a guy I've looked up to for over a decade fumble this opportunity, stoke more insanity, and likely hurt a bunch of folks in the process,” Sacca says.

        Other founders in the same trap
        This is a problem for many founder-led companies. Sacca points to Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, which Sacca also invested in at an early stage. Sacca says Travis is objectively brilliant “but as he became powerful only the suck-ups remained. He had no real friends left.”

        Throughout his tenure as CEO, Kalanick had extremely tight control over the company's board of directors, once telling Apple CEO Tim Cook that he had intentionally structured the board and handpicked its members to allow him to "do what I want,” Mike Isaac wrote in his book Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.

        In the end, “Travis had a board seat to fill, and there was almost no one he could put in it because he was alone,” Sacca says.

        But one person who hasn’t fallen into this trap is Mark Zuckerberg, Sacca says. “Never been a fan, but at least that guy keeps some smart people around and sometimes listens. I hate most of their decisions, but they are free to suggest to Zuck that he's full of sh*t.

        “No one on Earth is good enough to get it all done on their own," Sacca asserts.

        This story was originally featured on

        In other news, water is wet...
        "Donald Trump and his supporters and allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy" ~ Judge J. Michael Luttig


        • #64
          Twitter is dying

          It’s five months since Elon Musk overpaid for a relatively small microblogging platform called Twitter. The platform had punched above its weight in pure user numbers thanks to an unrivaled ability to both distribute real-time information and make expertise available. Combine these elements with your own critical faculty — to weed out the usual spam and bs — and it could feel like the only place online that really mattered.

          Even if the average internet user remained baffled by Twitter, it contained essential ingredients that made it a go-to source for journalists or other curious types wanting to earwig on conversations between interesting people — whether subject experts or celebrities. It was also therefore a place where experts and celebrities could find community and an engaged audience — without the need for layers of message-filtering middlemen. Twitter was where these two sides met and (sometimes) meshed in messy conversation.

          There was an alluring (sometimes bruising) rawness to the medium. Yes, you could get the thrill of almost unvarnished opinions from celebrities on Twitter — at least compared to more curated social media feeds like Instagram. But the real pull and power of the platform came from the incredible wealth of knowledge any Twitter user could directly tap into — across all sorts of professional fields, from deep tech to deep space and far beyond — just by listening in on a discussion thread or sliding a question into someone’s DMs.

          Above all Twitter was an information network; the social element came a distant second. Although it had a notable sideline as an unofficial dating app as it could be a great way to get a feel for someone’s personality without meeting them in person. (There are countless stories of people making friends or even life partners via encounters on Twitter.)

          The running joke became ‘how is this site free?!’ Because the interactions could be so remarkable — so show-stopping or fascinating — that it felt incredible to encounter this kind of proximity (to knowledge or stardust) for free.

          Well, Twitter is no longer free. Literally and figuratively. And we are all so much poorer for that.

          Since Musk took over he has set about dismantling everything that made Twitter valuable — making it his mission to drive out expertise, scare away celebrities, bully reporters and — on the flip side — reward the bad actors, spammers and sycophants who thrive in the opposite environment: An information vacuum.

          It almost doesn’t matter if this is deliberate sabotage by Musk or the blundering stupidity of a clueless idiot. The upshot is the same: Twitter is dying.

          The value that Twitter’s platform produced, by combining valuable streams of qualification and curiosity, is being beaten and wrung out. What’s left has — for months now — felt like an echo-y shell of its former self. And it’s clear that with every freshly destructive decision — whether it’s unbanning the nazis and letting the toxicity rip, turning verification into a pay-to-play megaphone or literally banning journalists — Musk has applied his vast wealth to destroying as much of the information network’s value as possible in as short a time as possible; each decision triggering another exodus of expertise as more long-time users give up and depart.

          Simply put, Musk is flushing Twitter down the sink. I guess now we all know what the dumb meme really meant.

          On April Fools Day, the next — perhaps final — stage of the destruction will commence as Musk rips away the last layer of legacy verification, turning up the volume on anyone who’s willing to pay him $7.99 per month to shout over everyone else.

          Anyone who was verified under the old (and by no means perfect) system of Twitter verification — which was at least related to who they were (celebrity, expert, journalist, etc.) — will cease to be verified. Assuming they haven’t already deleted their account. Only accounts that pay Musk will display a ‘Blue Check’.

          This is just a parody of verification since the blue tick no longer signals any kind of quality. But the visual similarity seems intentional; a dark pattern designed to generate maximum confusion.

          If you pay Musk for this meaningless mark you’ll also get increased algorithmic visibility of your tweets and the power to drown out non-paying users. Which mean all the fakes and imposters can (and will) overwrite the real-deal on Twitter.

          Genuine users are rightly outraged at the idea of being blackmailed into paying Musk to prove who they are. These people — the signal amid the Twitter noise — are, after all, a core component of the value of the network. So of course they shouldn’t (and won’t) pay — and so their visibility on Twitter will decay. Which, in turn, will trigger more damage — as any remaining users wanting to find quality information will find it increasingly hard to come by… It’s death by irrelevance.

          In a further twist, only paying users will get a vote in future Twitter policy polls — meaning Musk will guarantee populist decision-making is rigged in his fanboys’ favor. (But actually this just looks like pure trolling since he doesn’t stick to the outcome of poll results he doesn’t like anyway.)

          The upshot is Musk is turning Twitter into the opposite of a meritocracy. He’s channeling pure chaos — just like the cartoon ‘chaotic evil’ villains love to. (And, well, as we’ve said before, Twitter is Musk’s calamity masterpiece.)

          Nor does this gambit look like a moneyspinner for Musk, either. He’s clawed in just $11 million in subscription revenue since relaunching Twitter Blue three months ago, per Sensor Tower. (Reminder: Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter last October. And has already destroyed half that value, according to a recent leaked internal memo.) So, yeah, this ‘game of pwns’ has been verrrrrrrrrry expensive for Musk too. It’s an eye-watering lose-lose equation — unless you’re a spammer, basically. (Then, presumably, it’s a cheap way to spam Musk fanboys if that’s a useful thing to do?)

          Making money out of Twitter doesn’t seem to be the point for the billionaire/former world’s richest man who obviously has wealth enough to throw plenty of borrowed billions down the sink. Although early in his takeover he trailed (trolled?) the idea of transforming Twitter into a billion user platform. But when it comes to growing revenue and users we must all surely agree that Musk been drastically — spectacularly — unsuccessful.

          However if the point is simply pure destruction — building a chaos machine by removing a source of valuable information from our connected world, where groups of all stripes could communicate and organize, and replacing that with a place of parody that rewards insincerity, time-wasting and the worst forms of communication in order to degrade the better half — then he’s done a remarkable job in very short order. Truly it’s an amazing act of demolition. But, well, $44 billion can buy you a lot of wrecking balls.

          That our system allows wealth to be turned into a weapon to nuke things of broad societal value is one hard lesson we should take away from the wreckage of downed turquoise feathers.

          You can say shame on the Twitter board that let it happen. And we probably should. But, technically speaking, their job was to maximize shareholder value; which means to hell with the rest of us.

          We should also consider how the ‘rules based order’ we’ve devised seems unable to stand up to a bully intent on replacing free access to information with paid disinformation — and how our democratic systems seem so incapable and frozen in the face of confident vandals running around spray-painting ‘freedom’ all over the walls as they burn the library down.

          The simple truth is that building something valuable — whether that’s knowledge, experience or a network worth participating in — is really, really hard. But tearing it all down is piss easy.

          Let that sink in.


          Another "genius businessman" showing what's he's really worth.
          "Donald Trump and his supporters and allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy" ~ Judge J. Michael Luttig


          • #65
            So Much for ‘Elon Musk, Free Speech Warrior’
            The Twitter-Substack clash has caused even some hardcore Musk supporters to jump ship.

            Late last week, a bizarre new chapter opened in the saga of Elon Musk’s reign as Twitter CEO. On Friday, users of the social media platform discovered that if they sent out a tweet with a link to a Substack page, interactions with it were so severely restricted that you might as well have tweeted into a void: no likes, no retweets, no replies—you could not even reply to your own tweet. In web browsers the Twitter site would give an error message; in apps and on Tweetdeck, the attempt simply failed. Quote-tweets still worked, and some Substack-based publications with custom domains seemed to have escaped the ax; but no one knew why or whether that would change. Later, attempts to get around the throttling resulted in Twitter warnings claiming that the links to Substack were “malicious.” And attempts to use Twitter’s search function to find tweets using the term “Substack” instead brought up results just for the generic term “newsletter.”

            This was no Twitter glitch: The functions were deliberately disabled after Substack announced a new feature called Notes, a service for short posts which could be a potential Twitter alternative. These actions were taken with no official announcement from Twitter or Musk.

            The sweeping measure caused consternation among Substack writers for whom promoting their work on Twitter was one of the main reasons to be on the platform. In an ironic twist, the most outspoken among them was Matt Taibbi, one of Musk’s handpicked conduits for the release of the “Twitter Files” that were billed as an exposé of supposed speech suppression by pre-Musk Twitter, much of it allegedly coordinated with government agencies (such as measures to limit the reach of tweets with COVID-related claims that public health agencies classified as misinformation). Taibbi, like the other Twitter Files authors, Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger, publishes on Substack. His response to the Twitter crackdown on Substack was swift:

            Some other culture warriors who had backed Musk as a warrior for free speech and against the corrupt rule of progressive Big Tech and the “legacy media” also voiced dismay:

            The next day, Musk finally spoke—and made claims that were promptly rebutted in Community Notes.

            Substack cofounder and CEO Chris Best also weighed in.

            By Sunday afternoon, the interdictions on Substack links were lifted, and tweets with such links functioned normally again—although as of this writing, Twitter searches for “Substack” still yield results for “newsletter.” No word yet on whether Taibbi still intends to leave Twitter and whether he plans to delete his account, along with all of his old tweets, or simply to stop tweeting. No word, either, on whether this particular chapter in the Twitter Wars has come to a close.

            This dumpster fire of an episode is a gloriously stupid finale to the “Elon Musk, Free Speech Warrior” show that Brett Weinstein and some other Musk allies imagine is still limping along.

            Musk, let’s not forget, launched his Twitter acquisition bid with an explicit agenda of saving freedom of speech on the platform from excessive and intrusive content moderation—such as banning the account of the right-wing satirical site the Babylon Bee over its refusal to delete a tweet referring to Biden administration public health official Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, as “Man of the Year.” Allegations of Twitter “censorship” via biased moderation were also at the center of the “Twitter Files.”

            It wasn’t long after the Tesla founder took over Twitter that the limits of his commitment to free speech became apparent. Long before Taibbi’s revolt—just two weeks after the “Twitter Files” first dropped in December—Weiss, who also played a major role in their publication, criticized Musk for booting journalists from the platform during a spat over an account that tracked the location of his private jet. (Musk said the account was publishing “assassination coordinates” for him. In fact, the tracker showed only the origin and destination of the flights some time after takeoff and landing; what’s more, not all the suspended journalists had even linked to the tracking account, and some had merely criticized Musk or tweeted links to other social media platforms.)

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            Musk, with typical graciousness, responded by accusing Weiss of “virtue signaling” and sucking up to “media elites” (and falsely claiming that the suspended accounts had been “doxxing [his] real-time, exact location”).

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            Musk also unfollowed Weiss—which is obviously not a violation of free speech, but does say a lot about the tech tycoon’s openness to even friendly criticism.

            The suspended journalists, it should be noted, were soon reinstated. But “Twitter’s Free Speech Warrior-in-Chief can have a tantrum and suspend you, but he’ll eventually relent and let you back in” is hardly a reassuring message if you really think Twitter should be a universal access public square.

            Yet even after that, many people apparently thought Musk was part of a “Western-values/free-speech coalition” (according to Weinstein). Sure, if those Western values are of seventeenth-century “l’État, c’est moi” vintage. Or, in the more modern iteration offered by the late, great Nat Hentoff: “Free speech for me—but not for thee.”

            The Twitter-Substack war is not the only speech restriction controversy in which the self-styled “free speech absolutist” Musk has found himself on the egregiously wrong side. There’s also the fact that Twitter has been accommodating demands by the increasingly authoritarian government of India under populist prime minister Narendra Modi to disable the accounts of opposition politicians, activists, and journalists—including some who live outside India. Add to this the recent revelation that the Twitter algorithm has been directed to downrank tweets about “the Ukraine Crisis,” which just happens to coincide with Musk’s increasingly overt antipathy to Western support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s war of aggression.

            And that doesn’t even get into all of the other drama that has plagued Musk’s Twitter leadership: the many petty fights over the Twitter accounts of mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times and NPR; the boosting of conspiracy theories; the botched paid service plan and the utter fiasco of dismantling the old system of verification checkmarks. One could debate the reasons—personality flaws, bad management, or the toxic pull of the right-wing “anti-woke” counterculture that has turned Musk into its standard-bearer, or most likely all of the above. But the results are clear: even onetime Musk supporters are jumping ship.

            Many of the critiques of pre-Musk Twitter had some validity, and at least some of the left-wing commentariat’s horrified reaction to Musk’s acquisition of Twitter even before it happened reflected an entitled view of the bird site as a space where progressive political values should dominate. But at this point, it is clear that Musk’s tenure has been a disaster. For people who are genuinely concerned about dangers to freedom of speech, it should be a lesson in the dangers of political tribalism and bad alliances.
            "Donald Trump and his supporters and allies are a clear and present danger to American democracy" ~ Judge J. Michael Luttig