Elon Musk wants Twitter to be a “platform for free speech.” What about misinformation? – National

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Elon Musk Wants To buy Twitter So it can unleash its full potential as a field of free speech, he says — but depending on how he approaches it, researchers warn it could create an environment where misinformation Thrives.

Musk’s move to buy Twitter becomes public in SEC file on Thursday, That’s where the billionaire electric car maker laid out his vision for the platform.

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“There are no guidelines (for) your rhetoric on social media could be cause for concern, especially with the kinds of issues we see today,” said Marie Blankenship, a researcher at the University of Nevada who researches how misinformation spreads via Twitter. .

She cited COVID-19 as an example.

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“We can see how this kind of disinformation really leaks into people’s perception of medical risks, and it can actually lead to[their injury]or even death.”

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Musk has offered to buy 100 percent of Twitter for $54.20 a share in “cash.” That would come to about $43 billion for the entire purchase — a total that Musk said at TED2022 he could “technically afford.”

He says he hopes to turn the platform into a “universal arena for freedom of expression”.

“Twitter has become a kind of actual town square,” Musk said.

“It’s really important that people have the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the confines of the law.”

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David and Goliath fight conspiracies online

David and Goliath fight conspiracies online

How we define the limits of the law, however, is where things get tricky.

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Different countries have different laws regarding expression on social media or elsewhere. For example, the United States has a First Amendment right to free speech. Canada has the right to freedom of expression, but it is subject to much more restrictions.

Moreover, Twitter, as it stands, isn’t doing a great job when it comes to shutting down false narratives, according to misinformation experts.

“There’s not a lot of oversight,” said Carmen Celestini, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo.

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“I think they’ve done a really good job of trying to curb misinformation, especially things about COVID, conspiracy theories, everything like that — but there’s a lot of that information, really, on Twitter.”

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The trend of coronavirus searches on Twitter as experts recommend sticking to reliable sources – March 11, 2020

Blankenship agreed – advertising and disinformation “still managed to infiltrate” the platform.

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“Now, imagine if you didn’t have any of the restrictions imposed by social media sites, how widespread disinformation, disinformation and propaganda would be,” she said.

Lies are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted on Twitter than facts, According to a 2018 study It was published by professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

They also found that lies reach their first 1,500 people six times faster.

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It’s an issue that Blankenship knows all too well. She’s Ukrainian, and she has her family all over Ukraine feeling the ramifications of misinformation every day.

Blankenship said, noting Musk’s reluctance to block Russian news from SpaceX’s Starlink in Ukraine.

“These are news outlets that are constantly calling, basically, for the genocide of the Ukrainian population.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly used propaganda in an attempt to garner support for the invasion of Ukraine. Between perpetuating lies about the number of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and rumors circulating about his quest to destroy the country’s alleged biological weapons laboratories, information has become another tool of war in this conflict.

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Confronting Online Disinformation Through the Ukraine War – 14 March 2022

Celestini agreed that misinformation could be a “dangerous thing”.

It affects populism and it affects politics. “It affects people’s beliefs,” she said.

If disinformation and disinformation were allowed to spread without any restrictions, this effect would increase “absolutely,” Celestini said.

Global News reached out to Twitter to ask about the percentage of censorship on the platform caused by a user posting misinformation and misinformation. Twitter will not disclose any confirmed numbers.

Instead, the site referred to Global News towards its rules – which includes banning “hateful content” as well as any content that threatens “civilian integrity”, such as elections.

Speaking to TED2022, Musk was pressured to draw the line regarding freedom of expression on Twitter, should his bid to buy the platform succeed.

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He repeatedly said that any speech should fall “within the limits of the law,” although he did not specify which laws it would be. He also said that Twitter should make its algorithm “open source”.

Musk said there should be “no…behind the scenes to manipulate, either mathematically or manually.”

However, the self-described “absolute freedom of expression” did not set precise standards for what he considered freedom of expression.

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For Celestini, concerns about Musk’s Twitter takeover can be described as a bit of misinformation – because it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s unclear if it will continue.

“Don’t worry about the problems you don’t have,” she said.

The majority of shareholders will have to agree to Musk’s offer, which presents the $54.20 share price as his “best offer,” despite the stock trading at more than $70 per share just last year.

Celestini added that Twitter’s audience covers a variety of political views – and those with extreme views do not represent the majority.

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“He’s not stupid enough to spend that much money destroying something and losing all that money,” she said.

“So we have to take that into account, if he really wants to build a free speech zone.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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