Elon Musk exposes the truth

Nobody is happy with the private public square

Nobody is happy at Musk’s takeover of Twitter. At one extreme, Commercial realities will quickly kill the expectations of extremists that hate speech and conspiracy theories should be allowed back to thrive. The rest of us, meanwhile, have been exposed to the ugly truth that while a commercial platform does not have the moral right to determine what is said in the “Town Square”, it certainly has the power to do so.

Of course, in the UK and EU politicians hope that legislation such as the Online Safety Bill and the EU Digital Services Act will rein in any failures by a Musk-run Twitter. This seems to us a rather folorn hope, as both measures are really aimed at the most extreme content and situations. Much of what makes people do not like or do not wish to encounter online falls well below those bars.

The basic problem, as we have spelt out many times, is that:

Moderation of content at scale is extremely difficult; andThe attention business model pushes provocative content as it engages users

What users need is pretty clear. They need greater control over what content they receive, how it is prioritised and how it is presented. The way this is done, in a digital world, is to create more “open” systems that allow third parties to repurpose, filter and represent content in ways that users want. This can and should include better ways to moderate content.

A few

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