Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, reached out to Twitter CEO Paraj Agrawal a few weeks ago through a friendly interview. Musk was buying stock in the social media company, and he was captured by Mr. Musk, and wanted to discuss how to improve Twitter.
Mr. Musk had ideas for reshaping the social networks that align with those of Mr. Agrawal and Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, according to their public exchanges. All three have brought up the idea of radically shifting power in social networks to users and away from giants, using an approach to technology that would give people control over what they see in their social media feeds.
In the following weeks, Mr. Agrawal discussed making Mr. Musk a more active participant in the future of Twitter, according to two people familiar with the conversations who were not authorized to speak publicly. Mr. Agrawal also welcomed Mr. Musk – who has more than 80 million followers on Twitter and sometimes tweets a dozen or more times a day – to the company’s board, one person said.
On Tuesday, Twitter announced that Mr. Musk, 50, will be appointed to its 11-person board of directors in a term ending in 2024. This followed the revelation on Monday that Mr. Musk had amassed a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter, making it largest shareholder. Mr. Musk has agreed not to own more than a 14.9% stake in Twitter or acquire the company, which is headquartered in San Francisco, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
“Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it has become clear to us that he will add significant value to our board of directors,” Mr. Agrawal said. Tweet on Tuesday.
Adding one of Twitter’s most powerful users to its board has implications for a social network where world leaders, legislators, celebrities and more than 217 million users conduct their daily public discourse. Unlike some other Twitter board members, Mr Musk has not signed an agreement preventing him from influencing the company’s policies. This may allow him to work with Mr. Agrawal on a future vision for “decentralized” social networks.
This vision challenges the way platforms are created. The underlying technologies will be built openly and transparently, with oversight and input from programmers around the world. Users can then customize their social media feeds and set their own rules about what types of speech are acceptable. This is very different from how social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are created, where companies dictate which posts can remain and what should be removed.
The plan is in line with Mr. Musk, Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Agrawal’s beliefs in unrestricted freedom of expression. Mr Musk criticized Twitter for managing its platform too rigidly and said more talk should be allowed. Mr. Dorsey also wrestled with the decision to fire former President Donald J. Trump last year, saying he did not “celebrate or feel proud” of the move. Mr. Agrawal said the public conversation provides an inherent benefit to the community.
Their positions are becoming increasingly radicalized in a global debate about freedom of expression online, with more people questioning whether excessive freedom of expression has enabled the spread of disinformation and divisive content.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Mr. Musk, who leads Tesla and SpaceX, said he hopes to “make significant improvements to Twitter in the coming months.” He did not elaborate and did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Agrawal and Mr. Dorsey also did not respond to requests for comment.
A Twitter spokesperson said Mr. Musk would not have a policy-making role at the company. He said daily policy decisions would still be made by Twitter employees, and the company would be impartial in developing and enforcing its rules.
Mr. Musk can cause Twitter turmoil. He has long used the service as a cudgel, poaching short Tesla sellers and insulting critics. He also published inaccurate information about the epidemic. After he considered taking Tesla private in a tweet in 2018 and inaccurately claimed he had secured funding for the transaction, he was fined $40 million by the SEC.
Some Republicans celebrated his appointment to Twitter’s board on Tuesday, accusing the company of political bias and censorship of right-wing votes. “Musk. Freedom of Expression,” Representative Jim Jordan said:a Republican from Ohio.
(The Democrats, with whom Musk tangled online about the party’s proposed wealth tax, weren’t forthcoming.)
David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine who previously worked with the United Nations on speech issues, warned that Mr. Musk’s vision of free speech could conflict with Twitter’s policies, which are meant to moderate conversations around the world.
“The danger is that his individual and personal business preferences, which are sometimes privacy, will influence rule-making and enforcement in a way that is inappropriate for a company that, in his words, is a copy of a public square,” he said.
Twitter’s move toward a “decentralized” social network is rooted in the discontent of some of its top leaders with how the platform has become an arbiter of what is allowed online and what is not. While Twitter users exercise some control over their social media feeds – such as choosing who to follow – the service’s algorithm chooses which posts appear at the top of their feeds and the company can decide whether to ban accounts based on whether the posts have violated its policies.
Dorsey, who stepped down as Twitter’s CEO in November, said users should have more power over the posts they see so they can make their own moderation choices. Last week, he lamented in a tweet that the centralization of the Internet by businesses had harmed the web.
“I realize the blame is partly to blame, and I’m sorry for that,” he wrote.
In 2019, Mr. Dorsey funded a project called Bluesky, an effort to develop a new social media infrastructure that would give users control over their data, organize the best tweets using their own algorithms and allow them to transfer their data to other platforms.
Mr. Dorsey testified in Congress in 2020, describing the concept as an “exciting market-driven approach where people can choose algorithms that filter their content so that they can get the experience they want.”
At the same time, Mr. Musk became involved in decentralized control technologies. In 2015, along with Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sam Altman and others, Mr. Musk set up an artificial intelligence lab called OpenAI, saying the company would publicly share its research with the entire world. Later, Mr. Musk separated from the company.
It is unclear whether decentralized Twitter can come together. It could take years for it to appear because it would involve a complex process of revamping the entire platform.
By March 14, Musk, who has a net worth of $270 billion, had amassed more than 5 percent of shares in Twitter, according to one company. After that, he began expressing more of his thoughts about Twitter and freedom of expression on the service, including conversations with Mr. Dorsey.
“The Twitter algorithm should be open source,” Mr. Musk chirp On March 24, he asked his followers to vote “yes” or “no” to the idea of making the code that powers Twitter’s algorithm publicly available. Such “open” algorithms can give people more options to arrange their feeds as they like and prioritize different types of content.
Mr. Dorsey agreed at once. “The choice of which algorithm to use (or not to use) should be open to everyone,” he said chirp as a response.
employment March 25Mr. Musk asked his followers whether Twitter was failing to abide by the principles of free speech. “Freedom of expression is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you think Twitter adheres so firmly to this principle?” he asked.
A day later, after more than two million users responded, Mr. Musk wroteGiven that Twitter is a de facto public square for the city, failure to adhere to the principles of free speech fundamentally undermines democracy.
Is a new platform needed? he added.
On Monday, in one of his first tweets after his stake was revealed, Musk posted another Twitter poll asking people if they wanted to be able to edit tweets, a feature many have unsuccessfully requested.
Mr. Dorsey gave his opinion on Tuesday after Mr. Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board of directors was official. make it evolutionreally happyhe tweeted.
Kid Metz Contribute to the preparation of reports.