If Elon Musk cancels Twitter’s terms of service, he might regret it

All of this is a moral and ethical case for maintaining the moderation policy, but what’s even more confusing about Mr. Musk’s crusade is that it’s hard to see how removing it would be good for business. Currently Twitter demographics oblique man. If Twitter wants to further expand its business and increase profitability, which is supposedly its goal, it needs to expand its reach. Turning the platform into a hostile environment for women and minorities is not conducive to expansion, unless you believe that your most valuable audience is white males who tend to be conservative and that there are more and more of them – and demographic trends show that this is not so.

If anything, the history of Twitter shows that when you make the platform more welcoming to a wide range of people, the user base grows. When Twitter’s biggest troll, former President Donald Trump, was removed from the platform in January 2021, proposed study that the percentage of adults on social media who said they used Twitter increased by 21 percent. (Mr. Trump said he had no plans to return to Twitter, but this column isn’t long enough to list all the things he said he wouldn’t do but later did anyway, so some skepticism is appropriate.) If the former president is invited back, it is likely that some of the new users after Trump will leave.

Mr Musk said he don’t buy twitter to make money, but as a successful entrepreneur, he probably wants to make a company that has struggled with profitability a success for a long time. The company’s income is currently heavily dependent on advertising, and in my experience as a former media entrepreneur and editor-in-chief of a newspaper, advertisers usually don’t like to promote their brands along with provocative content; even daily political news is sometimes too much. If Mr. Musk allows Twitter to become a cesspool of hate speech and disinformation, he will test the risks of the platform’s advertisers and will likely find that he will have fewer brands willing to venture online. contaminated human feed.

There is also, of course, a risk – both moral and business – that further harassment and misinformation on the platform will result in real physical harm. The 2016 Pizzagate conspiracy theory, the precursor to QAnon, went viral on social media and led to a man firing an AR-15 rifle at a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. When people feel entitled to hurt others because hate speech has become the norm on the internet, the ease with which conspiracy theories metastasize into acts of violence. A platform that spreads this kind of rhetoric and takes a hands-off approach to disinformation doesn’t just make users feel bad; it can kill a person.

It’s possible that Mr. Musk didn’t think about these things very carefully. His public bid on Twitter began just a few weeks ago, and since then his stated intentions have changed repeatedly, accompanied by belated and misleading securities filings and conflicting statements. He enjoys online trolling and it may have started as a joke that was then taken so seriously by the market, Twitter shareholders and the public that Mr Musk himself began to consider it.

If that’s what happened, he might be the dog that caught the car. Tesla shares tumbled after the purchase announcement, potentially reflecting shareholder sentiment that Mr Musk may not be able to effectively manage another company in addition to the four he already leads (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and Boring Company). . .

Complex moderation policies are hard to design and implement, and Twitter has already spent years reworking and trying to come up with something that works. The current terms of service aren’t ideal, but if Musk decides to drop some or all of them, he might take a fresh look at Twitter himself: the anti-women and minority aspects of the platform might not be as friendly to him, either. And if the company can’t expand its user base, its worst critics could be Twitter’s only growth area.