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Is Elon Musk Still Trying to Figure This Twitter Thing Out?

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

After closing his $44 billion deal to purchase Twitter, Elon Musk still seemed to be trying to figure out what he had bought.

On Friday the world’s richest man cut about 3,700 of the company’s 7,500 employees, saying in a tweet that “unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4 million a day.

But within hours, according to reports, the company was reaching out to ask dozens of those newly unemployed employees if they would please, please return to their jobs.

Those dozens included not only those who were fired “by mistake,” according to reports, but also some whose knowledge will be critical to the development of new features that Musk would like to implement.

They include members of the trust and safety teams that manage content moderation, a function that seemed more sorely needed than ever in the deluge of racist slurs, Nazi memes and other garbage that followed the takeover by Musk, a famously self-described “free speech absolutist.”

But those who were expecting even bigger changes, such as the restoration of former President Donald Trump’s account, have to wait longer, says Musk. He tweeted on Friday that he would make “no major content decisions or account reinstatements” until the convening of a new “moderation council.”

 

Earlier in the week, Musk met by phone with civil rights groups in an effort to assure them that he would curtail hate speech, stop the spread of misinformation ahead of the midterm elections — and restore access by Twitter employees to moderation tools from which they had been locked out during the company’s acquisition.

He confirmed in his Friday tweet that the council would have “widely diverse viewpoints,” but he offered no other information about it, its members or how much authority it would have. The groups reminded Musk that any such organization should include those who are targeted with hate-filled online language.

Moderation matters, if Musk is to avoid the “free-for-all-hellscape” he promises Twitter will not become. We’ll see. Besides social justice groups, Musk also has to be concerned about advertisers, readers and everyone else connected to the outsize role social networks play in our national politics and social discourse.

Musk certainly could have invested in another exotic enterprise like his Tesla electric car company or his SpaceX venture in commercial space travel that might bring fewer public relations headaches — and maybe an actual profit.

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