Friday, October 28, 2022

Elon Musk Finalizes Twitter Acquisition

Kate Conger and Lauren Hirsch:

After months of waffling, lawsuits, verbal mudslinging and the near miss of a full blown trial, Elon Musk now owns Twitter.

On Thursday night, Mr. Musk closed his $44 billion deal to buy the social media service, said three people with knowledge of the situation.

Elon Musk:

the bird is freed

David Faber and Jonathan Vanian (Hacker News):

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and finance chief Ned Segal have left the company’s San Francisco headquarters and will not be returning, sources said. Vijaya Gadde, the head of legal policy, trust and safety, was also fired, The Washington Post reported.


Musk’s executive firings followed news last week that the billionaire planned to slash Twitter staff numbers by 75% in an effort to pay down the company’s debt burden. Musk later dismissed those reports, saying he would not cut that amount of employees.

Elon Musk (Hacker News):

The reason I acquired Twitter is because 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’s currently great danger that social media will 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 those polarized extremes, as they believe that is what brings in the money, but, in doing so, the opportunity for dialogue is lost.


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.

Nick Heer:

How in the world he expects to accomplish that is something I am curious to learn more about. I have an open mind. Yet, nothing in this letter is much different from the kind of stuff any social network says it does. Every platform says it has policies that are simultaneously inclusive and permissive until they are tested.

As far as I know, the major social networks don’t currently let you turn off certain kinds of algorithmic moderation. Perhaps his idea is to allow all legal posts, but to hide some potentially unwanted ones using controllable filters. Or perhaps some tweets would only be visible if you follow the poster, so that you wouldn’t accidentally come across them.

John Gruber:

But as a privately-held company Musk is free to make changes that move Twitter away from being optimized for engagement and towards being optimized for enjoyment.

The risk of fading into irrelevance is far greater, if not nearly certain, under Twitter’s current leadership. I think Twitter is worth saving. I think Twitter requires massive changes in order to be saved — both outward-facing as a service and platform, and internally as a company. I would not have picked Elon Musk as the person to lead the company through those changes. But you dance with the one who bought the company and took it private.

Nilay Patel:

Twitter, the company, makes very little interesting technology; the tech stack is not the valuable asset. The asset is the user base: hopelessly addicted politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other people who should know better but keep posting anyway.


The essential truth of every social network is that the product is content moderation, and everyone hates the people who decide how content moderation works. Content moderation is what Twitter makes — it is the thing that defines the user experience. It’s what YouTube makes, it’s what Instagram makes, it’s what TikTok makes. They all try to incentivize good stuff, disincentivize bad stuff, and delete the really bad stuff.


22 Comments RSS · Twitter

Old Unix Geek

The West was once a bastion of free speech. I hope this will prove a step back towards this ideal.

What speech wasn't possible on Twitter today that this change will allow?

Old Unix Geek

Speech which contradicts the opinions of those currently in power, obviously.

The ban of a US president by a company that relies on US law to exist was quite extraordinary. As was the ban on reporting the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop which likely affected the US election of 2020. Oddly, this was hardly reported upon, unlike the never-ending "RussiaGate" and "insurrection" stories. The banning of the Babylon Bee follows the same pattern of promoting a particular worldview and censoring another. It results in around half the US population feeling itself to be censored.

Similarly, the banning of anyone, including researchers who were well versed in their fields, who raised concerns about the use of pseudo-uraline based mRNA vaccines, which does not decay in a couple of hours as originally advertised, was a concern for those of us who believe science only works if it is properly debated, not if some "expert" on high decides what is and what isn't "true". That's religion, not science. There is now evidence that Twitter censored people based on requests by the government, which is a clear violation of the first amendment.

Another category are people who report on world events who do not follow the "narrative" enforced in popular Western media. This reduces diversity of opinion, and the ability to understand why we might be facing world war 3. In the USSR one could read foreign newspapers which did not follow the party line. In the West, it is rarer, and more discouraged. That is upsetting to me.

If this question is asked honestly, you can find many more examples.

However this question might also have been asked dishonestly, in order to punish dissenters to a certain worldview, by calling them names and trying to cancel them. I hope that is not the case here, since I find such people quite reprehensible.

This is the dumbest thing that Elon has ever done.

"This is the dumbest thing that Elon has ever done."

Everybody can become the victim of a scam, don't judge.

"where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence"

What if the "debate" is the reason for the violence, though?

"The West was once a bastion of free speech."

If you think banning violent racists on Twitter is an attack on free speech, let me introduce you to all the Republican legislators changing how library boards are appointed, so they can ban books they don't like.

A private company not wanting the 0.0001% worst racists on their platform is not the thing we all need to worry about. It's just the thing the right-wing outrage machine wants you to worry about, so you don't notice their politicians taking away your actual rights.

@Kristoffer: it might be. I hope he hasn't overreached, and put SpaceX into jeopardy.

Privatize then monetize. He's no dummy.

Dorsey was creepy enough. Elon Musk is worse. I finally left Twitter because why would I want a right wing troll controlling what I see and mining my data?

If you’re still on Twitter, change your location to Germany to benefit from better privacy. Then shut down your account. If you want to chat technical, do it on GitHub.

Old Unix Geek

"There seem to be 10 people “managing” for every one person coding"

Elon Musk

Old Unix Geek: "There is now evidence that Twitter censored people based on requests by the government, which is a clear violation of the first amendment.”

That’s not even close to being true. It’s disturbing how many people are throwing around such accusations without ever, apparently, having taken even a basic high school class in U.S. government, or having read the document they claim to understand.

The very first words of the First Amendment (which is all of one sentence long!) are “Congress shall make no law”. Unless your “evidence” is in the form of a law passed by the U.S. Congress, then it has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

You seem to have confused “violation of the first amendment” with “tech company does something I disagree with”. Even if it originated as a suggestion from the executive branch, it’s still the latter.

@Washington There is a lot of case law around the first amendment, so that it doesn’t mean only what the text literally says. For example, it doesn’t only apply to Congress, but also to the executive branch and to state and local governments. And it doesn’t only apply to laws, but also to things like policies of public universities.

Old Unix Geek

Apparently, @Washington, you need to educate professor Jed Rubenfeld, a professor at Yale Law School who is an expert on the First Amendment. He too "has not even taken a basic high school class in US government", nor has "he read the document he claims to understand". You'll find his clearly muddled opinion in an article of the Wall Street Journal entitled "Twitter becomes a tool of Governmental Censorship". I relied on his, and other experts' opinions, rather than that of some random person on the internet. For this unpardonable sin, I must clearly beg your forgiveness.

(For the irony impaired, this post may contain some sarcasm. Try to locate it!)

LOL… when Rubenfeld the anti-vaxxer refers to “censorship”, he means the removal of misinformation from social media platforms. Like for example those things your weird uncle on Facebook keeps posting about 5G, “George Soros” (wink, nudge), Fauci’s secret mind-control microchip in the Covid vaccine, etc.

@Old Unix Geek, why did you put insurrection in scare quotes? Are you referring to some thing other than the January 6 insurrection?

Old Unix Geek


Because the event of January 6 does not meet the requirements of the pre-2020 definition of insurrection, and I consider it a misuse of language. In fact I consider it propaganda, which does not mean I condone the event itself. I consider the misuse of words to achieve political goals truly Orwellian.

I'm not familiar with what you consider the pre 2021 definition of insurrection to be.

But surely an armed mob storming a capitol building where the Congress is in season, with the explicit motive of overthrowing a democratic election must be an inspection?

If not, then why not?

Add to that the strong indications that the military head been approached beforehand. Why else the joint letter from the defence secretaries that meddling would be a bad idea just a few days before?

Maybe it would be better described as a failed coup.

Kristoffer, it is now part of Republican groupthink to downplay right-wing political violence. (Just look at the organized Repub disinfo campaign in response to the attempted assassination of Speaker Pelosi by one of their disciples—amplified by none other than Musk himself.) So don’t expect an honest appraisal of Jan. 6 from this guy. He’s apparently quite happy to remain in his parallel universe info bubble, with its peculiar private definitions of terms and concepts, unperturbed by inconvenient facts or reason. Not much point engaging with him.

This kind of thing is only going to get worse, thanks to Elmo. Buckle up.

Old Unix Geek

Gord, you are hilarious. Speak about projection. I am not part of your "Democrat" tribe. Nor am I part of the "Republican" tribe. A plague on both your houses. I particularly despise the fact that there are so many people who think that others are either "with us" or "against us". This is not how a healthy democracy works.

I also make an effort to use the correct definitions of English words.

The Oxford English Dictionary's definition of insurrection is "violent uprising against authority or government".

The Oxford English Dictionary also states that a coup is "A violent and immediate seizure of state power, usually by armed forces, and with the implication of being undemocratic and unconstitutional."

I saw no armed forces attempting to overthrow the US government. The probability that a bunch of disorganized protesters from all over the US could wrest power from a government that has the strongest military in the world is literally nil.

By European standards, this was a mismanaged yet relatively peaceful demonstration.

Mismanaged because the police had plenty of warning, yet did not stop people entering a building they were apparently not allowed into, and because a number of deaths occurred, including the shooting of a protester by the police.

Relatively peaceful because relatively few if any artifacts got damaged. In France the farmers dumped industrial quantities of manure into the Élysée palace where the president lives, and that did cause quite a bit of damage. From the January 6th ITV video I saw, most people were remarkably well behaved and NPR's quip that it was a self-guided tour seemed not that far off.

I realize most of you have not lived in countries that have suffered actual coups, actual insurrections or actual military dictatorships, but quite honestly to anyone who has, you come over as completely delusional.

The most interesting question to me is why the authorities let it happen. Incompetence? Or a good excuse to put up fences and to make lots of political hay? Why did Mrs Pelosi have her daughter filming her speaking about punching the ex-President in the head on that day?

Anyway, I shall leave it at that, as I know this is not the forum for politics.

Derek Bolander

Twitter is only valuable so long as non-conservatives continue to engage with it. If they leave, it just becomes Parler, an empty room with zero people to enrage. They need liberals audience to thrive.

Should non-conservatives vote with their disengagement from the platform and make it the next Facebook, then Old Unix Geek can be Old Twitter Geek where no one listens to them there about being repressed.

@Old Unix Geek As always I appreciate that you actually make a statement and that you are willing to articulate and argue for it in a very clear way. No weaselwording or reading between the lines.

I don't agree with your view of the January 6th events, I don't agree that pouring manure outside a government building is worse than storming a capitol with the clear intent of overthrowing a democratic vote, severely compromising national security, and causing death and trauma.

I also think it's obvious that the army had been contacted beforehand and that the slow response was the result of this. But that is speculation based on the letter pf warning that the defence secretaries sent a few days before the event.

We will never agree on this, but that's fine. There are other things we agree on, and once again; I really appreciate that you are willing to articulate your opinions.

@Kristoffer, thanks!

Just for precision sake, the incident at the Élysée I was referring to involved spraying a whole truck load of manure (using some sort of machine used to spray it on fields I think) through a first story double french door into a room, thereby causing a real mess. It wasn't dumped outside.

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