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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

How to reform Twitter

Dear Mr Musk,

We are not altogether surprised that you did not follow our advice in our earlier open letter to you, to the effect that Twitter is stacked with Russian bots and as such its market value that you agreed to pay is grossly inflated because the free speech ideals you propose to advance in your transformation of Twitter are impeded through hostile and malign government interference.

The fact was that your lawyers were abysmal in drafting up the contract you signed, acceding to the Twitter drafters' proposal that breach of a legal warranty in the contract only gives rise to an actionable right of termination of the pre-sale agreement if you can prove that the breach had a material adverse effect upon the company's value. You could not prove that, because nobody can predict such things in a ballooning tech market in which all manner of imponderables that might be relevant to the future success of the business cannot be empirically quantified - they can only be guessed at.

So your lawyers shafted you. Next time, hire a better law firm, such as our good selves.

Now that you have purchased Twitter and fired its ruthlessly incompetent former executives en masse, you have an opportunity to do something glorious for liberal democratic traditions of free speech using this global platform. And we would like to suggest to you some axioms from which a reorganization might proceed; and to set out a consequential version of how a renewed Twitter might work and why this new operation would be good for the world and for geopolitics. If you maintain adherence towards these goals then we are sure you will make money out of Twitter, because a refreshed and renewed Twitter stripped of all its anodyne nonsense and bots will become an ever more popular and higher quality media source and this will result in increased usage of the platform and hence increased opportunities to make revenues from collateral advertising.

Nevertheless it will be a long hard struggle.

By what axioms can Twitter serve the public good?

  1. The US legal precept that there is or should be a constitutional right to free speech save where that speech is inciting imminent criminal violence or harm to persons (e.g. shouting 'fire' in a crowded theatre) must be the ethical premise from which all discussions of censoring speech begins.

  2. Private media and other publication platforms have the same legal burden to preserve free speech as do public bodies. That is because the power of publication and censorship increasingly lie in private hands as a result of the proliferation of social media, which is privately owned, as a means of public expression of opinions.

  3. "Hate speech", without incentives to immediate violence, is constitutionally protected. People, or groups of people, have always hated one-another and they always will. You cannot ban it. Freedom of speech as a political value entails that such ideas may be expressed and, if necessary, demolished by rational argument and not by censorship. That is an essential precept of Enlightenment thinking and in particular the political philosophy of the Enlighten trailblazing philosopher Immanuel Kant: in the free conflict of ideas, superior and rational ideas will naturally prevail over prejudice and "hate speech".

  4. A private media platform ought not to prohibit the propagation of constitutionally protected speech.

  5. However there must be some limits on expression as a practical matter, or the media platform may be overloaded with rubbish that nobody reads or in the context of which a rational debate is impossible.

  6. There should therefore be a vetting process in respect of Twitter contributors (not readers), to noteworthy people, dedicated scholars, and intellectuals, and other categories of author that it is likely that the general public (consisting of Twitter readers) might actually want to read.

  7. It is legitimate to charge users who want to publish rather than just read, and Twitter under your new stewardship is taking tentative steps in that charge, planning upon introducing a fee to obtain "verified" status on the site. It is after all reasonable that people who wish to use a media source to express their views contribute to the costs of its operation. A person not prepared to pay for the distribution of his views may be presumed not to have a particular interest in the careful formation of opinions that it is legitimate to propagate to the public at large.

  8. Twitter, as a commercial enterprise, is entitled to make revenues from advertising and this will no doubt continue. However it has an imperative to pare down the quantity of contact to remove the abysmal quantities of casual junk with which Twitter is littered, in which people carelessly make unimportant comments upon the work of others that is often rude, offensive or unpleasant. There is no constitutional right to reply to an opinion with meaningless waffle.

  9. So the first barrier Mr Musk should erect to cut down on the 95% of Twitter that is dire drivel is a payment barrier to publish. That seems both feasible and practical, and he is making moves in that direction with requiring monthly payments to maintain a "verified" status.

  10. This should remove much of the junk with which Twitter is festooned. The next natural step would be for the Twitter platform, using artificial intelligence algorithms, to create clusters of subject matters revolving around specific issues or debates; and to invite members (both readers and authors) to join those clusters. This makes more sense that inviting and creating a network of users each of which decides to follow or be followed by other users) in a massive array of publicly visible connections. This is not just a compromise of user privacy, allowing Twitter users to spy on each other's connections, contacts and even opinions (people tend to follow the opinions of others that they support, predominantly although not exclusively so). It also makes it more likely that higher quality content reaches people who may be interested in it. The quality rating of an individual author who publishes in a specific cluster (and all other members of that cluster would have access to their writings) can be assessed by reference to the volume of actual readers of each piece, together with an assessment (for example, marks out of ten) that other readers provide for the published material.

  11. Using such methods, in a short enough period of time the authors producing the most provocative, readable and noteworthy content would rise to the top; whereas those whose material is distributed and lies unread would fall. This is more likely to promote high quality content than the system of users "following" one-another on more or less capricious bases. It would also give an opportunity to new authors to rise to the top quickly, if their content is meritorious, rather than their having to engage in the tedious exercise of gaining a sufficient number of followers in order to be read; filling their limited writing with things life hashtags (which would soon become a thing of the past); and writing dry trivia in order to promote their contributions simply because a Tweet, no matter how unoriginal and vacuous, may improve one's overall Twitter site ranking if one's bland material is circulated ad nauseam.

  12. Bots would be out, as bots write nonsense and nonsense would not be highly rated under this new scheme. So the problem that Twitter is plagued with Russian bots would solve itself under this system, just as artificially written letters to newspapers produced by computers tend not to get published.

  13. Once the quality is improved of Twitter conversations, you life the character limit to say 3,000 words - gradually, so that the authors writing quality articles for Twitter have time to catch up and put processes in place to write longer, consistently high quality, pieces.

  14. In time, as articles obtain rankings, search facility should be added and augmented to search for high quality / highly ranked articles on topics of specific interest. This would transform Twitter into a genuine platform of encyclopedic questions, answers and debates.

This is our blueprint for how to transform Twitter. We commend Mr Musk for the courage of his project in recreating Twitter as a valuable and respected media source, and we wish him all the best in the ideas he is injecting into what had become a morally bankrupt, vacuous media source.


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