by David Auerbach
Tuesday, 27
December 2022
Reaction
10:07

Twitter 2.0: new leadership, same old problems

The newly released Covid Files aren't a slam dunk for Elon Musk
by David Auerbach
All hail Caesar. Credit: Getty

Who would you rather have banned from Twitter, alleged Covid misinformer Alex Berenson or alleged real-time doxxing account @ElonJet? That is ultimately the question raised by the latest batch of internal Twitter documents leaked by Elon Musk’s new Twitter regime. For anyone who’s followed Twitter’s misadventures over the past year, the documents are not terribly surprising in painting a company incapable of administering the public square it had stumbled into creating. The documents are important in revealing how moderation occurs on a platform such as Twitter, though little will be surprising to those who have followed the revelations about Facebook’s moderation policies in recent years.

Yet the documents only half-succeed in advancing the narrative Musk is clearly interested in pushing. If the goal is to make the old regime look bad, the documents score a slam dunk. But if the goal is to make Musk’s regime look like an improvement, they fall short and only make the case for yanking Twitter’s authority and remit from anyone.


Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email

Already registered? Sign in


The most irrefutably damning accusation levelled by the Free Press’s David Zweig in examining the documents is that everyday moderation decisions on Covid-related tweets were outsourced, as such decisions often are, to wholly unqualified contractors following a decision tree itself created by unqualified Twitter employees.

Whether or not such procedures stemmed from an establishment bias, and whether or not whatever bias was present was ultimately beneficial or harmful, the more profound question is: how could anyone (not just Elon Musk) do any better? Twitter was already on record as having wrongly censored or banned accounts for tweeting accurate information, while Alex Berenson himself was able to get back on the platform after filing a lawsuit, resulting in more publicity for him.

The question of what qualifies as misinformation is far more complicated than just shoring up “establishment” narratives. A June paper in the prestigious journal Nature trumpeted that 25% of infected children wind up with “long Covid”, burying the statistic that of the grab-bag of symptoms comprising “long Covid”, the most common by far were mood symptoms comprising “sad, tense, angry, anxiety, depression”, so that a sad kid contributes to the same overall statistic as one with memory loss or loss of smell. Many credentialed experts reported the 25% figure and nothing else on Twitter. If not misinformation, it was misleading and unnecessarily alarmist. At a point you start to wonder if some of those people weren’t stealthily trying to discredit actual Covid risks by intentionally leaning on the scales.

And yet none of it may have mattered all that much. Whatever Twitter did in the way of removing information, I see little convincing evidence that it significantly shifted the public debate toward the direction of the “establishment narrative”, which wholly failed to take hold in wide pockets across the country and around the world. (And judging by the number of maskless people in the New York subway even before Musk took over Twitter, that narrative was not holding up anyway.)

That leaves the upshot of the leaks as issues of principle: what should and should not be moderated out? But the issue is not what moderation regime there should be, but that Old Twitter was incapable of competently implementing any moderation regime.

The problem for Musk is that New Twitter still isn’t. Musk’s new regime eliminated the Covid decision tree, but Covid information is no longer the hot-button issue it once was. The greater moderation problem is not going away, as Musk himself indicated when banning Kanye West for tweeting a swastika merged with a Star of David, saying “he again violated our rule against incitement to violence”. I won’t miss Kanye and his Nazi apologetics, but moderating for “incitement to violence” is not so much easier than moderating for Covid misinformation. And with Musk or his lieutenants engaging in bans of parody accounts, journalists, and (briefly) promotion of accounts on competing networks, Musk’s claim to be a free speech absolutist remains as empty as ever.

So if a laissez-faire regime isn’t happening and moderation is unworkable, what can one do? People should stop defending Twitter’s Old Regime as some imaginary bastion of competent sanity, but so should others stop seeing Musk as any real palliative. The uncomfortable issue is that any company that gets into the business of shaping public discourse is going to come under government pressure and inevitably botch the mission to one extent or another. The problem with Twitter may simply be that it is Twitter.

With populations increasingly unwilling to agree on anyone to trust as an authority on a wide variety of subjects, the very idea of a consensus to enforce is breaking down. (Even Kanye has his defenders.) The best we may be able to manage is to devolve control away from any single public sphere with too much influence, because from Twitter’s example we’ve seen that no one could manage it: not Jack Dorsey, not Parag Agrawal, and certainly not Elon Musk.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
60 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago

Can anyone take this article seriously?
The Twitter files are not simply about Twitter 1.0 being unable to manage ‘misinformation’, the files are EVIDENCE that governments and governmental organizations were involved in manipulation of the narrative, laundering of what was science and decisions around who to censor – it was not just Twitter 1.0 – useless and money wasting as they were. And all of this being done while malign greedy people were raking in the money.
Secondly, how are the Covid files no longer a ‘hot button topic’. I want people brought to book – I spent 3 years locked up, watching businesses going under, people losing their livelihoods, millions being pushed into poverty (death), children losing years of education (those that weren’t lost entirely to the education system) – all the while knowing that we were being censored and manipulated by lies. I am furious. We should all be saying NEVER AGAIN.
As for whether Twitter 2.0 is better than 1.0 – it has been going for only 2 months, it is on track to making money and people of differing opinions are allowed on the platform. And there are differing views. Plus we get to watch a major disruptor tearing up the rule book and allowing this to happen. After a while he will get a CEO and things will calm down, but in the meantime – bring it on.
Please Unherd – bring someone with a little more heft to the table on Twitter.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago

Oh and BTW, I haven’t even gotten started with Twitter 1.0 shutting down the debate around the gross overreach iro the vaccines – people manipulated and often mandated into taking vaccines with dodgy safety tests. Interesting how things are emerging now. Even if you don’t want to acknowledge individual reporting on suppressed safety information and the like, fgs look at all cause mortality stats in so many countries. And did I read somewhere recently that someone on the board of Reuters sits on the board of Pfizer? Spend some time and you can link all these nefarious characters.
All the ‘conspiracy theories’ are coming true and the people who slavishly followed the gubmint, their organisations and the corporate media want to scuttle away and declare all revelations a ‘nothing burger’.
And no, in comparison I don’t give a f about Kanye.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago

Give it a rest. They may have been released with a very abbreviated set of tests, but by now those vaccines have been thoroughly tested in the best way possible: They were used on hundreds of millions of people, and any honest account of the side effects will show that they were *not* dangerous. They were regrettably not as effective as one would have hoped, but that is another story. The available data on COVID vaccines are as good by now as any test data could ever be. All it takes is a good professional analysis to show the adverse effects you are – and are not – getting. If it is there, could you please point me to it? If nobody can find anything that shows those vaccines are dangerous, we can conclude that they are not. Meanwhile amateur analysis of mortality statistics, warnings about who sits on the board of Pfizer, or conspiracy theories generally are just not cutting it.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rasmus Fogh
j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I suspect one of the great ironies will be how many anti-vaxxers eventually gag for an mRNA treatment for cancer or other serious infection – let’s see if they’d reject it if they had Ebola or Lassa fever. I think not somehow. Covid accelerated the science behind mRNA ten-fold. As a pandemic positive not much beats this. 
The fact the West not only produced effective vaccines, but was capable of mass production, rapid deployment and dissemination will be one of the things that most impresses future historians who look back on this difficult period in the decades to come. Look at the mess in China for future evidence how fortunate we’ve been that proper collaborative, peer reviewed science remains valued and respected.
Suspect also historians will look back with a roll of the eyes at how a proportion of people in the early years of social media became victims of ‘guru-psychosis’ as an influx of ‘ker-ching’ merchants took them for fools while boosting their bank balances.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

In Canada, over 80% of the population was double vaxxed. Only a tiny fraction of people opposed vaccines because of these so-called conspiracy theories. The vast majority didn’t want a vaccine because they didn’t need the damn thing. Why would a healthy young person with no underlying health issues get vaccinated. Covid posed no risk to them.

If anything, the bungled and corrupted roll out of the vaccines has poisoned the waters. It has created an entire new pool of vaccine skeptics.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Don’t vaccines protect individuals but also society as a whole by increasing the barrier to virus circulation. In that case a high proportion of the population needs to be vaccinated. But certainly different countries aligned on very different age limits for the recommendation for vaccines, above 50 in Denmark I believe.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

My anger at the Covid management is not so much toward the vaccines (albeit I’ve had just one J&J and no boosters), but toward forced V compliance, the lockdowns, forced masking, and suppression of information on effective cheap treatments. I was furious for 18 months seeing masked little children and young people and knowing that they were having this done to them in order to keep people like me “safe.”

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

I suspect that you have been furious about everything for a very long time and you will continue to be so.
Your misplaced rage has little to do with how public health policy is determined though…

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Spot on.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But there are side effects. I got double faxed because I’m close to 60 years old. My son didn’t because he’s 24. He lost his job because of it and a relationship with his cousin.

And then we find out the drug companies didn’t even test for transmission. How this isn’t the biggest story coming out of Covid is truly mind boggling.

Any benefit of the vaccines was erased by this decision to gaslight the entire world.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He got to do what he wanted, and he paid the price. Does he think it was worth it?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

What kind of question is this Are you okay with forcing people to take unnecessary medical interventions? If you can’t see this is a problem, you are part of the problem.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Unless your Son was a health professional and it was quite early in the vaccine roll out I think quite heavy handed to be fired for non compliance. We almost got to that stage in UK NHS in early 22, and then Govt backed off, thankfully. By that point the v high proportion vaccinated meant the risk of some remaining otherwise was much less.
But there remain some good studies showing vaccination reduces risk of transmission (not remove it). Given the v low, despite lots of social media nonsense, serious side effects, vaccination did raise many issues about how we take unselfish actions to help each other which we are all still absorbing. It may be some time yet before we can all have full perspective and the benefit of hindsight was not available to Policymakers in the eye of the storm.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Well, once upon a time I worked at a university where we had to sign every year that we had re-read the entire safety booklet *and* understood it *and* agreed to follow it. It was about 120 pages, including the maintenance rules for radioactive fume cupboards and the set of commissions that vetted applications for doing animal experiments. And as a pure desk worker only about three were relevant to me. It obviously had nothing to do with safety, it was just the lawyers wanting to make sure that if anything happened you could not sue them. I can be pretty bloody-minded, and I strongly objected to either spending several working days learning a lot of stuff I did not need, or being coerced to sign a false statement. So I refused to sign as long as I could, and then signed ‘None of the above is true, signed under protest’, and explained my reasoning to the department head who scolded me. The thing is, I would not have insisted on not signing if it had cost me my job. I felt their procedures were really objectionable, but not signing that you had read the safety booklet was not important enough to give up your job over.

The benefits of vaccinations may or may not outweigh the risks for a 24-year-old, but both risks and benefits would be fairly low. His employers and his cousin clearly felt this was important (Was he a health worker? Did his employers object to an employee who openly undermined one of their main policies?) Anyway, your son clearly did think that not getting vaccinated was a hill worth dying on. Unless he thought it was somehow extremely dangerous I just wonder why.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rasmus Fogh
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Statistically, my son was much more likely to get killed or injured in a car accident driving to his vaccination appointment, than any adverse reaction from the shot or Covid.

My son is stubborn. He refused to get an unnecessary medical intervention and wouldn’t do it just to make other people feel better.

The problem was the employer and relative who thought the vaccine would prevent people from transmitting the virus – even though we knew this wasn’t the case at the time and now know drug companies didn’t even test for transmission.

The problem is big tech, politicians and the legacy media, which spread misinformation with claims that vaccines prevented spread. They knew this wasn’t true or they should have known it wasn’t true.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The vaccines have been shown to make the course of the disease less severe, and reduce the mortality. The most probable assumption would be that vaccination also *reduces* transmission, even if it does not *prevent* it, so the vaccinated are both less like to catch the disease, and less likely to pass it on. Maybe there are no hard data on that, either way. I certainly do not have any links. But unless the Veenbaas family can provide those data, that would be a point to consider when deciding on vaccination policy, and compliance.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Your son isn’t stubborn, he’s stupid. Does he refer to himself as a “pureblood”? Those people are comical!!!
Did you get him vaccinated as a child so he could attend public school and participate in sports and other childhood activities?
I suspect you’ll say no even though you did. Admitting that your child has had multiple vaccinations kind of blows up your argument rather convincingly, doesn’t it.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

You are not helping. Telling people that they are stupid death eaters will just convince them that they are right and that you and all who agree with you are obnoxious and wrong. We have way too much polarisation already, without people like you trying to increase the supply. If you need to get it off your chest, fine, but can’t you go to the Guardian and do it among your friends? Then at least you will not be making matters worse.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rasmus Fogh
Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You do it your way, pal, I’ll do it mine.
However, using reason to try to convince these zealots is an utter waste of time. I’ll leave to it.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
19 days ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

I’ve got to respond to this even though it’s 21 days later and you won’t likely see it. You are the problem with society today. You want to impose your ill-informed, knuckle-dragging opinions on others.

What do you not understand? Statistically, my son was more likely to get injured or killed driving to his vaccine appointment than Covid. Tell me again why he needs a vaccine?

It’s not to prevent the spread of infection. The drug companies did not test for transmission. There is no conclusive evidence that the vaccine reduced the spread of infection. There never was. And the drug companies DID NOT TEST FOR TRANSMISSION!!

Go to the CDC website. Look for yourself. No one is saying the vaccines prevent the spread of infection.

Of course we got our children vaccinated – because small pox, measles, polio vaccines etc provide lifetime immunity from much more dangerous diseases.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The vaccines do reduce transmission for a while and more importantly reduce hospitalisations, allowing the health care system to get on and deal with arguably more important business than unimmunised Covid bed blockers.
https://nature.com/articles/s41591-022-01816-0
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02328-0
The protocols for the original vaccine studies (available online for anyone to read in spring 2020 – only 180 pages or so) were neither designed nor powered to test for transmission or lack thereof. The priority at that time was to reduce illness requiring hospitalisation.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago

Yet again – thanks!. Great that there is someone who actually knows what is happening to back those of us who just talk 😉

David Giles
David Giles
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You mean he didn’t do what he was told and paid the price. Not the same thing at all!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  David Giles

So you don’t believe people should have the right of bodily autonomy? Isn’t this like a fundamental right in a free society?

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

If there is infinite health care capacity available AND people are willing to accept the consequences of their decisions (no health care if they require hospitalisation with Covid and they have voluntarily chosen not to be immunised – excluding those with medical reasons for non immmunisation and the immunocompromised) then bodily autonomy rules OK… sort of…as long as your decision doesn’t affect other people which with this virus is not the case.
The problem with this latest virus is that there is presymptomatic transmission https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32283156/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33484843/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32271722/
and not everyone is willing to go all Swedish and not meet anyone when they become infected (even supposing they know that they are) so … it isn’t all about you or your son but everyone you come in to contact with as well.
I understand that in the Land of the Free altruism died many years ago.
That’s fine as long as the majority of the population accept that as a fundamental value.
As far as I know, no one has bothered to ask the general population in any country what their view is on this.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Keep it up Rasmus, despite the downvotes. There seems to be a fairly large section of Unherd readers who can’t accept your reasoning but don’t offer comment to explain why, unlike others who do.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Stewart
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago

I’m with Donald Trump regarding vaccines! Current levels of excess mortality have nothing to do with the vaccines though it almost certainly does with lockdowns, deferal of medical tests and treatments, the enforced closure of the economy etc.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The first four words of your comment disqualify you from being taken seriously on any subject at any time.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago

Do you think there should be no moderation at all? That would mean freedom for people to encourage suicide, anorexia, pogroms and massacres (Rwanda, Eritrea or Myanmar, if not the US), and sex with 13-year-olds. Also spreading the idea that the Holocaust, the Sandy Hook shooting, or the moon landings are a hoax. Also encouraging people to shun standard medical practice and telling them they are better off with beetroot juice against AIDS, faith healing, positive thinking, Vitamin D, bleach injections, rhinoceros horn, Ivermectin, …

Unless you believe in total freedom also for quacks and genocidaires, you will need some way of suppressing the things you think are dangerous. And someone to do the deciding. As this article says, there is no reason to believe that a single person called Elon Musk will do a better job than the US government. It just so happens that his thinking is closer to yours.

Deciding what is science and what to suppress as scientific nonsense is an integral part of science itself. If you do not do it you will never get further than a lot of cranks shouting at each other. There will always be people who refuse to believe that the earth is round, germs cause disease, or that the theory of relativity is correct. You cannot convince them they are wrong, but you can make it clear to non-scientists that their colleagues all agree that they are talking nonsense. That does not mean that drawing the line is necessarily uncontroversial, but surely we can agree that some things – like beetroot juice and bleach injections – are over it.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“Deciding what is science and what to suppress as scientific nonsense is an integral part of science”
A rather bizarre claim don’t you think? Deciding what to suppress as scientific nonsense is not and never has been a part of “science”, if by that you mean the scientific method. What is proved to work tends to replace theories that don’t work. Science is not some gatekeeper of truth suppressing and preventing the publication of erroneous theories.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jeremy Bray
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Good point. But I think there is a need for suppression in practice, if not in theory. The thing is: How do you find out which theories work and which do not? It takes a significant amount of work to disprove a theory – and there is an infinite number of alternative theories out there. If you had a duty to take seriously – and disprove – every random idea that someone came up with, you would never have time for anything else.

Then, if you are a core expert in a particular discipline, you would know what was proved and how, you would be able to find and check all the data, and to re-run the experiments as necessary. If you are from a distant field, let alone a member of the public, all you can do in practice is to check with the literature, or those who wrote it.

So, in practice, if someone come up with a new and different proof for why the theory of relativity is wrong, or how measles are really caused by vitamin deficiency and bad lifestyles, or how you can cure AIDS or COVID with homeopathy or bleach injections, scientists are not going to do the work to prove you wrong, or tell the public they had better consider this as a viable alternative. They are going to ignore you and refuse to publish your results, and demand that you provide a lot of proof yourself before they even consider to look at your data. And they would be right. In real science there are theories that everyone believes in, theories that a lot of people consider promising enough to be worth study, and theories that are simply dismissed. Sometimes important results get blocked this way, and some people will look foolish in retrospect. But the idea is that if the new theory is any good, eventually the data to prove it will come about.

As it happens I think there is an interesting parallel between the practice of science and the optimisation method of simulated annealing (one of the most powerful known). Simulated annealing works for problems with infinitely many solutions that can not be subdivided into simpler sub-problems. It has the crucial property that it is able to throw away a promising solution in order to eventually find a completely different and better one. And one of the key characteristics of simulated annealing is that new ideas are evaluated quickly and dismissed after a very rough estimate, so that most of the time is spent on improving promising ideas instead of disproving hopeless ones. The same is needed in science.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

‘…so that most of the time is spent on improving promising ideas instead of disproving hopeless ones…’

Worth repeating, and thanks for this excellent short statement of a simple principle that gets overlooked in the rush to find a quick fix for complex problems.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Misinformation is a reality. People need to make decisions for themselves. There are very specific speech laws already in place to prevent people from inciting violence against other people.

This is the only role for the govt. If govt gets to determine what is permissible speech, we no longer live in a democracy.

We have to allow people to promote pseudo-scientific theories because the alternative is more dangerous.

We act like misinformation never existed before the internet. The vaccine rollout for smallpox was as low as 40% in some communities during the early 20th century. But the vaccine was so effective this hesitancy wax never an issue.

B Emery
B Emery
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

My reply on this thread has been awaiting approval all day…..one disappeared completely the other is in my comments but not showing up. Unherd needs to make its speech laws more transparent in my opinion. No swears in it nothing. Sourced info. Grrrrrrr. Twitter looks appealing now.

Last edited 1 month ago by B Emery
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  B Emery

Unherd comments don’t adhere to the laws of the universe. I keep voting on comments days after the article, when no one else is reading and see the opposite result or no change at all.

David Giles
David Giles
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I agree without, I think there should be moderation. I also think you and your like shouldn’t get to do the moderating; I should.
How does moderation sound now?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  David Giles

Nothing new, actually. There will always be groups who are frozen out because a majority of society thinks they are beyond the pale (jihadists, neo-nazis, violent revolutionaries, flat-earthers, believers in faith healing). Then there are the rest, who may disgree but who all agree that they all are allowed some mainstream space. The question is how to set up some widely accepted standard for what is true and reasonable, so that most people can have some kind of faith in what they see in the news. No filters at all, and everything is unreliable. Exclude too large a proportion, and too many people get disenfranchised.

Trump is a good example of the dilemma: Many things he says are not only obvious rubbish, but dangerous. Bleach injections as a COVID cure? Suspending the constitution so he can win? On the other hand he is the presidential candidate for half the population. But if it is not possible to reach some kind of shared truth, all that is left is, as you say, that my people try to suppress your people, all or nothing.

B Emery
B Emery
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You misunderstand the twitter debate. Twitter had a mod policy, but they manipulated/ ignored it. Especially when it came to trump. Read the twitter files. Fbi banning joke low reach accounts. Fbi are all over it. Stinks. Stinks. Stinks.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago
Reply to  B Emery

Twitter files? You people live in an utter fantasy. But then anyone dumb enough to vote for Trump us gullible enough to believe literally anything.

B Emery
B Emery
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme McNeil

You must have been living under a rock….
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_Files

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

This essay is so flawed on so many levels that it’s difficult to take it seriously. It feels like the author was asked to write a contrarian piece, but didn’t have anything interesting to say, so he threw a bunch of garbage at the wall.

Ya we get it. Moderation is hard. But the author completely misses the point. Content moderation was so utterly corrupted and incompetent at Twitter, that anyone not captured by an inbred political dogma could do a better job.

Of all the questionable comments made by the author, this was the most obnoxious.

“Whatever Twitter did in the way of removing information, I see little convincing evidence that it significantly shifted the public debate toward the direction of the “establishment narrative…”

This means one of two things. Twitter was so crappy at propaganda that it failed to move the public opinion needle. Or people are so stupid none of it mattered anyway. Neither can justify hand waving at Twitter’s performance.

Ultimately, we will never know what impact it had on public debate because Twitter didn’t let it happen. If more people knew about the Great Barrington Declaration, it might have moved the needle.

I have some serious skepticism of Musk and his performance so far, but literally anyone not captured by ideology could do a better job. The management team at Twitter didn’t care about truth. In fact, it was incapable of recognizing any truth that diverged from its ideology.

This dysfunctional environment was fertile ground for the deep state security apparatus like the FBI, CIA and DHS. It was easy to convince moderators to adopt their propaganda and censorship campaign because the moderators didn’t care about truth or understand the value of free speech.

This is what we know. Like Google, Facebook and YouTube today, virtually the entire staff at Twitter were devout followers of a deluded, self-destructive, political ideology that makes them incapable of valuing free speech.

This progressive ideology has infected almost the entire ruling and technocratic elite. It is a bigger threat to democracy than Trump or Twitter and we must fight it ruthlessly at every turn.

Auerbach gave them a free pass.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Great comment, Jim.

B Emery
B Emery
1 month ago

Same bitter lemon that wrote the last article and still no real analysis of the files themselves.

This part: ‘The best we may be able to manage is to devolve control away from any single public sphere with too much influence, because from Twitter’s example we’ve seen that no one could manage it’

That sounds like a proposal to take it from musk. Sounds like they’re readying their excuses. How on earth do you devolve control? And to what ends? What counts as too much influence? Are you going to give the man a chance before you call him a failure? I don’t like the sound of that part at all.

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
1 month ago

The most irrefutably damning accusation was NOT that everyday moderation decisions were outsourced. That doesn’t even make the top 10.
We’ve heard about world-class public health experts being shadowbanned. We’ve heard FBI were monitoring low-follower accounts who were committing no crimes. We’ve heard about satire being banned. But no – let’s focus on trivia like whether the moderators were employees of Twitter of outsourced.
Dissapointed that UnHerd would publish such a strawman piece.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Gary Taylor

I think some of the outsourcing was sent to their office in the Philippines. What would make them any worse than California?

Last edited 1 month ago by clearmedia
Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago

“The uncomfortable issue is that any company that gets into the business of shaping public discourse is going to come under government pressure and inevitably botch the mission to one extent or another.”
The true test of Musk’s resolve will be whether he manages to resist the first issue. That alone would be welcome as a huge advance in the freedom of public discourse.
The author may be right that the second issue is just too difficult, but Musk can’t possibly do it any worse that Twitter 1.0 so for now I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

It seems to follow logically that you are OK with a private company ‘shaping political discourse’ and deciding what can and cannot be said. Just as long as it is not government that does it. Logically that would mean that this kind of power is perfectly OK with Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch, the Koch Brothers, George Soros, or Bill Gates, just not with an elected government or its bureaucracy. Is that what you think? Or can you correct my impression?

Last edited 1 month ago by Rasmus Fogh
B Emery
B Emery
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The point is no one has kicked off about all the above mentioned manipulating the media, (apart from on the fringe we’ve been banging on about it a long time before covid) and they do have the same power as musk. Now musk won’t take the line they they want to feed suddenly its a problem. I don’t see any articles by Microsoft/ Google associates talking about the problems with the msm media.
See here to see msm attending the trilateral commission meets for example. Ft, new York Times, Washington Post. Revolving doors between government, corporations and media are a problem.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trilateral_Commission

I really do think musk is doing a good thing kicking back against the constant one sided manipulation of the narrative.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

That kind of power was wielded by newspaper, radio and TV news editors, long before social media platforms like Twitter came along. They generally followed (and still do) a consistent political line, so you know what you’re likely to get if you read them. I would not expect to get the same information from an outlet controlled by Murdoch and one controlled by Soros, so I can get a range of opinions on any topic if I so wish.
That seems to me preferable to having the government of the day control messaging across all media outlets, so that a single uniform narrative is created to be fed to the masses.
Or are you suggesting that no-one should decide on what can and cannot be said? No rules at all?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 month ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

That sounds quite reasonable. But how do you square it with a system of a few quasi-monopolies, like Twitter, Facebook, or Tiktok? Also, there used to be some outlets that reflected a sort of neutral mainstream position (the main US TV networks, the BBC, …) and others that catered for the kooky (like the National Enquirer), and you knew which bias you were getting. Now ever more people get their news fed by the bubble-promoting algotrithms of a single monopoly platform, and you do not even know that what you get is biased. How do you make the system work?

B Emery
B Emery
1 month ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

How do you make it work? I got into the twitter files last night…… By not allowing the pentagon to manipulate it for starters?
By sticking to your policy in the first place. This is the problem, they didn’t stick to their own policy.
From Lee fang journalist involved in posting the twitter files:
https://theintercept.com/2022/12/20/twitter-dod-us-military-accounts/
Behind the scenes, however, the social networking giant provided direct approval and internal protection to the U.S. military’s network of social media accounts and online personas, whitelisting a batch of accounts at the request of the government. The Pentagon has used this network, which includes U.S. government-generated news portals and memes, in an effort to shape opinion in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and beyond.

David Giles
David Giles
1 month ago

“Whether or not such procedures stemmed from an establishment bias, and whether or not whatever bias was present was ultimately beneficial or harmful, the more profound question is: how could anyone (not just Elon Musk) do any better?”

No I’m sorry, that statement just won’t do. The evidence is crystal clear; the leaning of the Twitter decision-tree, all of the time, leant to leftish orthodoxy. The paid-for suppression of bad news for the Biden campaign is too damning and too unanswerable for any article, or should be!

And how unsurprising that the calls for independent policing of the online public square should come just at the very moment the leftist orthodoxy loses its grip on the decision-tree.

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
1 month ago

“…unqualified contractors following a decision tree itself created by unqualified Twitter employees….”
Judged here by an unqualified journalist.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Buena Vista

And commented on by unqualified commoners.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 month ago

New York City closed schools, fired city employees and banned those who didn’t get the Wuhan flu shot from dining inside restaurants.

Unlike the author I was shocked by the level of widespread compliance with mask mandates on the NYC subways. In 2021 I was almost always the lone “mask-less rider” on the platform or in the car. And indoor dining “vaccine” mandates were widely enforced, from Manhattan to deep into Queens. Defiant Staten Island establishments were heavily policed and some fined. So whatever else there is to be said, NYC is definitely not one of these places where the “establishment narrative failed to take hold.” In fact NYC was in the grip of this narrative.

Now, the author has a point in the sense that many New Yorkers would privately tell you they thought the rules were nonsense–most restaurant employees would tell you that even as they denied you service. (In true New York style one waiter who regretted turning me away joked to my date that look, he’d find her a vaxxed guy on the staff to go out with instead.) And in many parts of the country–though not in NYC, as the author would have us believe–of course life went on as usual. Such as in Florida, to where so many New Yorkers fled.

But this goes to show that media campaigns convinced people to act against their better judgment. No your average New Yorker is not staring at Twitter all day but apparently New York’s media class does nothing but. Many New Yorkers on a diet of phone-based propaganda, whether Twitter or something else, believed simplistic claims about the so-called pandemic that circulated unchecked. So they accepted absurdities and felt no need to justify them–they had already seen the justifications online, effectively “immunized” from debate.

Meanwhile, if you had a bar and tweeted, “this mask mandate doesn’t make any sense, these measures are costing me my livelihood, and for what” it wouldn’t circulate; Dr. Jay B has given an interview to Unherd with details on this subject.

Even if the author of this piece has yet to find “evidence” that Twitter censorship “shifted public debate” that is no reason to blithely overlook the scandal of the Wuhan flu fear-mongering, in which Twitter played a part, and which led to so much misery, perhaps above all in cities such as New York, where the after effects continue to this day.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago

Sometimes you have to choose between better and best. Musk isn’t a saviour but he has performed an inestimable service on showing the outright political bias aided and abetted BOTH by Twitter in a dishonest and covert way, AND by elements of the state, in the latter case completely contrary to the First Amendment. To start quibbling around this appalling state of affairs – still not being covered openly by the mainstream media in a ‘on the one hand, on the other’ is a pathetic and rather cowardly evasion.

Vivek Ramaswamy made similar points but in a far more constructive way on a recent UnHerd TV video. But if the state wants to weigh in on the side of suppression of unacceptable opinions’ then Elon Musk might be the best short term solution available.

Graeme McNeil
Graeme McNeil
1 month ago

Musk, objectively an intelligent man, has made a complete fool of himself here as well as burning $44BN in the process.
He thinks he’s a master of the universe but is quickly finding out that he’s a dollar store Bond villain – but instead of meeting an inventive end at the hands of 007 he is suffering a far worse fate – he’s been made to look like a clown in front of the whole world.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

More one hears more one thinks the best would be Twitter goes bankrupt, and that Government break up any other platforms that get this big. Fact is moderation can’t be neutral, and thus to ensure plurality no player should have too much of the market place.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

You can’t make it neutral, but you can definitely make it transparent. Algorithms and moderation procedures should be made public.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Yes they could certainly have a go at full transparency, but suspect the algorithms will be beyond most comprehension.
As well as the moderation problem they need to do something urgently about c16m Bots a day (5%) which as it’s their figure is almost certainly an under-estimate. One would not be surprised if it’s double. That’s a multiplication risk of mis-information that transparency can’t yet resolve. Needs to switch to payment filter quickly.
And anything that screws the FBS and CCP use of this medium the better.

Last edited 1 month ago by j watson