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Twitter reform to begin?

Elon Musk closed his purchase of Twitter and immediately started firing people and bringing in his own team. Will reform begin in ernest?

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Late Thursday night (October 27), Elon Musk closed his purchase of Twitter. Before the day was out, he fired the current CEO, CFO, and two senior legal officers. But does that mean that Twitter will reform and cease its thought policing? At least one former user, and a competitor, remain skeptical and urge skepticism.

The Great Twitter Drama

Reportage on the Great Twitter Drama comes from The New York Times, Bloomberg, American Liberty, and American Briefing. But it also comes from Elon Musk himself, who now calls himself Chief Twit in his biography. On Wednesday he literally entered company headquarters in San Francisco, carrying a bathroom sink. Then he tweeted video of his grand entrance, and left this plain-spoken caption:

Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!

He then terminated the four top-ranking company officers:

  • Parag Agrawal, Chief Executive Officer,
  • Ned Segal, Chief Financial Officer,
  • Sean Edgett, General Counsel, and
  • Vijaya Gadde, Chief Legal, Trust and Safety Officer.

That last firing could be key. Ms. Gadde permanently banned the @realDonaldTrump account of President Donald Trump, on her own direct authority. She also canceled all political advertising from Twitter – but no one believes that made the platform neutral. Bloomberg carried one as-yet unconfirmed report that security personnel escorted Ms. Gadde out of the building. Six months ago, Politico reported her crying jag as she contemplated a Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership.

At eleven minutes to midnight, Musk left this cryptic message:

On Friday afternoon, reports surfaced on YouTube that Musk had locked all of Twitter’s software engineers out of their accounts. He then terminated them all, and brought in engineers from Tesla to take their places. (Reports of Twitter employees carrying out boxes of their belongings are probably exaggerated. The “employees” might have been actors.)

Rejoicing – and skepticism

First, Governor Candidate Kari Lake (R-Ariz.) said if she wins, Twitter can move to Arizona.

One user (“Catturd”) pointed out that Twitter has sanctioned members by measures short of an outright ban.

An hour later he showed recognition that “changes can’t happen in a minute”:

Then Elon, twelve hours later, assured him:

The user then reported definite progress:

Jenna Ellis, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, reported similar progress:

But Lauren Witzke remains skeptical. Early Friday morning she sent a Telegram message of the image of her original suspension. She captioned it “Soon.” But eight and one-half hours later she wondered whether she would want to come back.

Not sure if I can function in Twitter Normie Land after spending 2 years being radicalized on Telegram LOL.

Laura Loomer, on Thursday night, noted that she couldn’t log in. More than thirteen hours later, she sent this response to a snide post from another Telegram user:

The world will be a much better place when I’m no longer banned.

My Twitter was one of the most entertaining and politically informative accounts in the history of Twitter, along with the protests that ensued in the months shortly after the ban.

Let’s be honest. The people have been robbed for the last 4 years.

Then Loomer took note of this tweet by Benny Johnson, in response to Musk’s “Bird is freed” tweet.

It contains a slide show of several “perma-banned” accounts.

What has Elon Musk actually said?

Elon Musk has definitely said that permanent bans from the site will no longer be an instrument of moderational policy. We can assume that the only new permanent ban would come by the order of a court of law. (To put a stop to a targeted “cyberbullying” campaign, for example.) But: does that mean that Twitter will now lift existing perma-bans? Dr. Steve Turley breathlessly said it would, in his Live Stream Friday show. But CNAV can not repeat not confirm this.

The only way CNAV can confirm any of the breathless anticipations by conservatives is to take reports from Laura Loomer, Lauren Witzke, and other Telegram users who retreated to Telegram after Twitter kicked them off. They can start with the accounts Benny Johnson identified, then add these:

For example, The Babylon Bee seems to be back on-line. But they haven’t posted anything since March 20.

Jordan Peterson is another account that seems blocked from posting.

All of which goes to show why CNAV has not bothered to promote its account on that platform.

The message to Twitter advertisers

Then we see this message Elon Musk sent to the platform’s advertisers:

I wanted to reach out personally to share my motivation in acquiring Twitter. There has been much speculation about why I bought Twitter and what I think about advertising. Much of it has been wrong.

The reason I acquired Twitter is [that] it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence. There is currently great danger that social media would splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society.

In the relentless pursuit of clicks, much of traditional media has fueled and catered to these polarized extremes, as they believe that is what brings in the money. But, in doing so, the opportunity for dialogue is lost.

That is why I bought Twitter. I didn’t do it because it would be easy, [and] I didn’t do it to make more money. I did it to try to help humanity, whom I love. And I do so with humility, recognizing that failure in pursuing this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility.

The hellscape passage

That said, Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences! In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.

I also very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain, and inform you; it can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you. For this to be true, it is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs. Low relevancy ads are spam, but high relevancy ads are actually content!

Fundamentally, Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise. To everyone who has partnered with us, I thank you. Let us build something extraordinary together.

Another Twitter skeptic

That message, especially the part about “free-for-all hellscapes,” prompted Andrew Torba to say, on Telegram:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Moderates are cringe. Pick your tribe or get rekt.

He also shared a copy of this cartoon from a new cartonnist calling himself Stone Toss. It shows a caricature of Elon Musk, pointing to Twitter and saying, “My platform has free speech.” In the next frame, Kanye “Ye” West points to Parler and says, “No, my platform has free speech.” And in the last frame, a big muscle-bound figure, wearing green shorts, looms over all the other figures. His head displays the logo of the Gab Empire.

Now this might represent nothing more than comparative advertising – “My brand is better than your brand!” But perhaps Mr. Torba has a point. What exactly does Mr. Musk mean by not letting Twitter

become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!

So what does Gab forbid?

Andrew Torba sets terms of service – very simple ones. First, he forbids anything that violates federal, State or local law. Next he forbids anything that exploits or contributes to the delinquency of minors (including pumping them for information). Further, he forbids spam, attempts to score free advertising, impersonation, or putting another in physical danger. His Content Standards (equivalent to an Acceptable Use Policy) forbid copyright infringement, threats, incitement, malware spreading, pornography, impersonation, misrepresentation, or:

commercial activities relating to finance, investments or gambling, such as contests and sweepstakes, penny stock promotion, money transmission, or Initial Coin Offerings; or the trade of live or endangered animals or animal parts, or anything that portrays or encourages the abuse of animals.

Take note, readers: Andrew Torba does not forbid commercial activities relating to the sale of guns or ammunition! Nor does he forbid “hate speech,” unless it clearly violates a law that would withstand a First Amendment challenge. In other words, subject to these Content Standards, a user may express his opinions, however outrageous, with complete freedom – and expect other users to slap him down just as freely. (Note: CNAV has no sponsorship, product-placement, or any other agreement with Gab.)

Will Elon Musk commit to the Andrew Torba standard of free speech? Will Kanye West? Both men will have to demonstrate their bona fides with respect to freedom of expression in the time to come.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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