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Elon musk remake of Mr Smith Goes to Washington?

Kapra's famous flick is about a corrupt conservative media conglomerate trying to run Congress and run roughshod over an honest man (Jimmy Stewart). Whether it's a corrupt newspaper empire supporting the GOP or a progressive social media platform, freedom of speech and the American market square of ideas shouldn't be for sale. Else we're no longer the land of the free and the brave?

If Musk can actually deliver a place where honest discourse can find a home (& hateful stuff isn't allowed), he'll buy a modern-day Smith.

To get there, he'll need to tone back his sarcasm and big mouth.

Elon Musk Can Save Twitter—and Democracy

The company is losing value by the day. Here are six steps to restore user and advertiser confidence.

By Mark Weinstein, WSJ

Nov. 20, 2022 4:17 pm ET

Twitter’s value has likely fallen far below the $44 billion Elon Musk paid for it in October. In recent days, Mr. Musk has said that “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue” and warned staff that “bankruptcy isn’t out of the question.” He needs to shore up this hemorrhaging dam quickly. As a veteran of the social-media trenches for more than 25 years, I have some advice for Mr. Musk.

First, he needs to resolve advertiser concerns that their ads will appear alongside unsavory content. Following Mr. Musk’s takeover, General Mills, United Airlines, Pfizer and General Motors paused ad spending. Advertising giants IPG and Omnicon recommended their clients pause ads as well. Advertising fills nearly 90% of Twitter’s revenue coffers, so a remedy is urgent.

Perhaps rather than task his engineers with updating Twitter Blue, they should immediately create an advertiser content-preference system. Allow advertisers to select the tenor and topical content that their ads are associated with, in tandem with their targets for user demographics. This will assuage concerns and could improve advertiser returns on investment.

Second, Mr. Musk must reconsider his new feature allowing any user to have a verification badge simply by paying $8 a month for Twitter Blue. He claimed via tweet that “it is the only way to defeat the bots and trolls.” Unfortunately, this has led to a rash of verified accounts impersonating public figures, companies and organizations, wreaking mayhem on their brands.

Despite this unintended consequence, Twitter Blue now offers verified accounts the chance to have their tweets “rocket to the top of replies, mentions and search.” Bot and troll armies are frequently funded by hostile governments and other bad actors looking to disrupt civil discourse. Now they can pay for verification and “rocket to the top,” giving them more disruptive influence than ever.

To defeat the bots and trolls now, Mr. Musk should relaunch Blue’s verification in tandem with some form of Real ID. This will cause another revenue haircut as these subscriptions are removed, but it will likely be offset by the return of advertisers to the site.

Third, Mr. Musk must establish open discourse on the platform without being an absolutist in free speech. Mr. Musk has dubbed himself a “free speech absolutist” and tweeted he doesn’t want Twitter’s moderation to “go beyond the law.” Increasing free speech on Twitter is vital to bolstering democracy, but sites that allow absolute free speech are overrun with hateful posts, spam, pornography, bullying, doxing and incitement of violence. Since Mr. Musk took Twitter’s reins, racial slurs and hate speech have surged on the platform. This could significantly reduce Twitter’s membership.

The best approach embraces light, even-handed moderation with no political bias and no double standards. This means a few simple rules: no inciting of violence, no bullying, no doxing, no hateful posts—with the last defined clearly and narrowly, in a way partisans on both sides can understand and agree with. Allow people of all viewpoints to speak freely and engage in hearty debates about politics, health issues, diets, lifestyles, etc. This approach isn’t conservative or liberal. It’s American.

Fourth, Mr. Musk must make good on his intention to oversee a Twitter with little propaganda. This may be his most important goal. Marketers, politicians and governments use Twitter to target unsuspecting users and manipulate their emotions, opinions, purchasing decisions and voting behaviors. Paid, purposefully misleading and polarizing content can spread like wildfire across the platform. In the short term, the way to solve this is to stop letting users pay to boost and amplify content.

Fifth, Mr. Musk can follow through on his proclamation that Twitter’s algorithms will become “open source to increase trust.” Brilliant idea. All will know how they are being manipulated and can choose whether to opt out. But as with all opt-outs, users pay scant attention to the settings toggle that adjusts this preference. Twitter must go an extra step: No algorithms manipulating user newsfeeds or boosting unwanted content, period. Users receive posts from the accounts they follow in their feed in timeline order. That’s it.

Sixth, to earn public trust and appeal to a wide user base, Twitter and its leadership must remain politically neutral. Mr. Musk’s recent tweets telling Twitter users to vote Republican before the midterms and sharing conspiracies about Nancy Pelosi’s husband miss the mark. As Parler and TruthSocial have proven, one-sided echo chambers quickly become untenable for users and don’t make for healthy businesses.

Twitter is the closest thing the world has to a digital town square. Fixing it is vital for the future. Preserving free-speech principles and eliminating paid propaganda are critical. I hope Mr. Musk will consider these recommendations to help Twitter strengthen civil discourse and restore trust with its users.

Mr. Weinstein is founder of MeWe.

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