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Elon Musk’s Perspective on Free Speech is Likely Different to Your Own, Which is Important to Note



Elon Musk's Perspective on Free Speech is Likely Different to Your Own, Which is Important to Note

So what is Elon Musk’s definition of free speech, exactly, and how does that relate to what you can and can’t say in your tweets?

The question of what should be allowed has become a central point of contention after Musk launched a $43.5 billion takeover push for the social media platform, ostensibly on the back of Twitter’s ongoing restrictions and moderation decisions.

In the lead-up to his Twitter takeover push, Musk noted that free speech is a central element of a functioning democracy.

Musk reiterated the same in his official statement on his takeover offer:

“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.”


Musk has, of course, faced several legal challenges over his tweets, from his suggestion that he might take Twitter private at $420 to baselessly accusing a cave diver of being a pedophile. As such, Musk is well aware of the potential consequences of the free speech that he’s advocating for – while at the same time, Musk has also sought to restrict others from saying what they like about him and his company via social platforms.

Last year, Musk tried to stop a Twitter user from sharing details of his travels on his private jet, while just recently, Tesla launched legal action against a car reviewer who criticized the Tesla Model 3’s auto-braking system.

So on balance, Musk has experienced both sides of what ‘free speech’ can bring, in a negative sense. Which makes it all the more strange that he’s so passionately advocating for the same. Freedom of speech, of course, doesn’t equate to freedom from consequence, but Musk knows, or should know by now, that there needs to be some limits to avoid real world harm.

Which is likely the element that Musk is overlooking, because despite these incidents, and the financial costs that have come with them, they haven’t impacted his life in any significant way as yet.

But they have for others. Vernon Unsworth, the cave diver that Musk had accused of being a pedophile, fears that his name and reputation will be forever tarnished through linkage to the false accusation (Musk even hired a private detective to dig up dirt on Unsworth as part of the case). Xiaogang Xuezhang, the TikTok car reviewer who criticized Tesla, says that Musk’s company released his personal information, and paid for social media campaigns that magnify the lawsuit against him, in an effort to discredit and make an example of him.

You can bet that if Musk were in either of their situations, he’d likely have a different perspective on the dangers of free speech. But that’s the thing, Elon Musk doesn’t have to worry about such in the same way, because he’s so insanely rich that the consequences are not the same, and never will be.

Which is why his stance on ‘free speech’ needs to be viewed with a level of caution, no matter how you feel about the basic principle of the matter. Indeed, when Unsworth’s lawsuit against Musk eventually went in Musk’s favor (due to the technicality that Musk didn’t specifically mention Unsworth in the offending tweet), Musk said that his ‘faith in humanity is restored’. Elon Musk sees no fault in labeling someone a pedophile, and broadcasting that to the world, despite having no evidence to suggest such. He believes that this should be his right, which is what he’s pushing for on Twitter.

But there is another side to Musk’s push, which relates to open algorithms, and enabling users to better understand the inner workings of social platforms so that they can make more informed choices about their in-app experiences.


“Any changes to people’s tweets – if they’re emphasised or de-emphasised – that action should be made apparent, so anyone can see that that action has been taken so there’s no sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually.”

This is an interesting suggestion, which Twitter itself is already exploring through its ‘Bluesky’ initiative. The idea that regular users could have a better understanding of such systems makes sense, though the complexities may well be lost on us non-coders and regular folk (i.e. the vast majority of Twitter users) who just want to check out the latest tweets.

Though there are some more interesting ideas around this. Nathan Baschez recently outlined how, by open sourcing Twitter’s algorithmic parameters, developers could create new, custom algorithms that users could choose from in order to personalize their tweet experience.

“For example I’d want to try an algorithm that attempts to prioritize nuanced conversations about important topics. Maybe someone else would want algorithms to find mind-expanding threads, savage dunks, or thirst traps of hot new snax.”

There are complexities with this too. I suspect, for example, that if TikTok were to open up the black box of its algorithm, you would find some very questionable qualifiers in its entity registration process. The platform has faced criticism in the past over its efforts to suppress posts from users with bad teeth, big bellies, physical disabilities, and more.

That suggests that TikTok actually has these elements as entities within its algorithmic qualifiers, and based on that, you can imagine the potential depth of specific body types, looks, ethnicities and more that it attaches as labels to each video clip.

There’s a reason why TikTok’s ‘For You’ feed is so addictive, but if you found out why that is, I’m not sure that you’d feel as comfortable using the app – and I’m not sure that its systems would stand up to scrutiny when matched against discrimination laws in various regions.

TikTok keeps a lot of these details in-house, and US authorities have noted that getting information out of the Chinese-owned company is not as straightforward as dealing with US-based platforms. But there is a reason why some analysts believe that TikTok will eventually be forced to change its algorithm, the secret sauce of its success.


Open sourcing Twitter’s algorithms could lead to similar concerns, with developers then able to build discriminatory, divisive algorithm systems that could highlight, say, people’s political leanings, essentially targeting them for the same, or could showcase less savory elements of the app in a brighter light.

People should have the choice, as Musk says, but at the same time, I’m not sure that giving users the option to choose an algorithm that eliminates ‘libtard bias’ would actually be good for society.

Which is the key question. Twitter has evolved its moderation systems over time in response to actual, real world harms, and concerns that reach beyond the platform itself. As in the cases of Vernon Unsworth and Xiaogang Xuezhang, these are not just words, such comments and accusations lead to actual, real impacts on their real lives, which could limit their future opportunities, and lessen their quality of life as a result. Elon Musk won’t feel that. He’s the richest man in the world, and even what would be significant financial penalties for anyone else are an anecdote for him, a joke that he can respond to with a few memes.

Even if you’re an advocate for free speech, there needs to be parameters, and if you don’t realize it now, maybe consider what would happen to your life if Elon accused you of being a pedophile, and shared that with his 84 million Twitter followers.

That’d be tough to shake, right? That could make it harder for you to get a job, to coach your kids’ soccer team, Elon setting his army of supporters onto you could cause real world harm, beyond the words themselves.

Elon Musk doesn’t see it that way, because he doesn’t consider such consequences through the same lens as you or I.

The question is, does ‘free speech’ mean the same thing to you as it does to Elon Musk?

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Meta Shares Insights into How Consumers View the Next Big Tech Shifts, Including the Metaverse



Meta Shares Insights into How Consumers View the Next Big Tech Shifts, Including the Metaverse

The metaverse has become such a vague term, incorporating so many different tech elements, that it’s hard to say what people really understand about the next stage of digital connection – which, it’s important to note, does not actually exist as yet.

With that in mind, it’s not entirely clear what this new survey data from Meta actually means, in a broader marketing context.

In order to gauge consumer sentiment about the metaverse, and the opportunities that it will provide for brand connection, Meta conducted a survey of 30,000 shoppers from around the world, to see how they feel about different aspects of advancing technology, which Meta has then attributed back to the broader metaverse concept.

As per Meta:

“[We] found that today’s shoppers are interested in next-level experiences with brands. Whether it’s exploring a product through immersive technology, or making sure their avatars are every bit as stylish as they are in the physical world, shoppers want a greater sense of connection and inspiration with the brands they engage with.”

Which could point to some significant brand considerations – with some provisos on specific data points.

For example, among their key findings, Meta says that 28% of people are using, or have used AR while shopping, while 42% imagine that AR can improve the shopping experience ‘by bridging the gap between online and the physical store’.


Which is no doubt true – advancing AR try-on tools, in particular, can provide a great complement to the online shopping experience. But that’s not the ‘metaverse’ as such – AR is not the same as the VR worlds that Meta’s building to support its metaverse vision.

It’s this kind of extrapolation of related tech that Meta’s using to promote its metaverse vision, though it’s not actually the same thing. AR, VR, Web3 – these are all elements of tech development that are separate, and while it is likely that you’ll eventually be able to combine aspects of each, it doesn’t all come under the umbrella of ‘the metaverse’ necessarily.

But Meta, which has gone all-in on the metaverse concept, wants to make you think that it does, because it can then lead the way in the broader ‘metaverse’ space, and beat out the competition that may be working on individual elements. Really, ‘metaverse’ in this context is synonymous with ‘technology’, with each of these being elements of technological advancement, not metaverse-related entities within themselves.

Which, again, is important to note does not exist. A fully immersive, fully interoperable digital world, where people can interact in all new ways is not a reality at this stage, and may take years to even get close to being a thing. Not only will it require big take-up of VR, but there’s also work to be done on establishing universal agreements to facilitate cross-platform integration, partnerships that need to be established between tech platforms which likely have little interest in signing any such agreement, along with advancements in body scanning, interaction (i.e. giving VR avatars legs), control tools, etc.

Meta may be keen to place itself at the forefront of the next digital evolution, but we’re not there yet.

But still, Meta’s keen to convince brands that they need to invest now, or risk missing the metaverse boat.

Among other key findings from its survey:

  • 42% of shoppers believe that the metaverse will positively transform their shopping experience.
  • 51% say that virtual stores will offer a more convenient way to shop
  • 50% of respondents indicated that they believe that brands will need to have a presence on gaming platforms and other virtual worlds to be successful in future

Again, this is based on concept – if somebody showed you one of Meta’s polished, edited, animated depictions of its metaverse vision, you’d no doubt also agree that this could be amazing for how we connect.


But that’s not real. Meta’s selling people on a concept that it cannot deliver just yet.

Will it be able to deliver on such in future? Maybe, but there’s a lot that needs to happen before brands need to truly consider how they appear in a metaverse space, be it the one created by Meta, or any other.

The only real, valuable insight in this new survey comes in the latter elements, and how people view their digital selves:

“Shoppers are ready to start purchasing digital twins – a virtual, identical good that comes with a physical item. In our survey, 46% say it’s important that new real-world products become available as virtual products as well. We found that 46% of shoppers surveyed say virtual products provide a feeling of association with a brand by offering something rare and unique, and 48% say it makes them more loyal if a brand offers a virtual good as a reward for their loyalty.”

This is an aspect that seems will definitely become more valuable, with avatar depictions, already available via Snapchat’s Bitmoji characters, or even Facebook’s own avatars, increasingly being used within online communications and activities.

This stems from gaming worlds like Roblox and Fortnite, where youngsters have spent years interacting with each other in avatar form. That behavior is likely to translate as they move into older brackets, and as such, the depiction of self via digital avatars will become a bigger consideration.

And brands can tap into this to help expand their promotions.

“Avatar personalization is a key driver of the interest in digital goods, and according to our survey, 49% of shoppers want their avatar to look the same as their physical self. Meanwhile, 28% want to appear different, but still like a person, and 23% want to present a more surreal identity.”


This is another important note – part of the emphasis within the recent NFT fad was that users will be able to use their NFT characters as their digital identity, which would theoretically include using depictions of, say, a Bored Ape character as a 3D avatar in these virtual worlds.

But history, and data insights like this, show that this likely won’t be the case. If people can, they’ll choose avatars that look similar to themselves, which potentially lessens the projected value of NFT characters moving forward.

In summary, yes, there are opportunities in future-facing tech, but they likely don’t go as deep, at least at this stage, as Meta wants to make businesses believe.

Meta says that brands looking to ‘fully lean into the metaverse’ can start experimenting with AR try-on effects or build experiences in Meta Horizon Worlds. But the former is not necessarily associated with the metaverse concept, and the latter is not fully functional, or relevant as yet.

But this is what you can expect – many consultants, advisors and entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the early knowledge gap will indeed be keen to tell you that you need to invest in these concepts right now, or you’ll risk losing out, and many businesses, a lot of which dismissed social media in its early stages, will offer up handfuls of cash to ensure that they reserve a seat at the virtual table, and can hook into these new trends.

Do you actually need to be investing in these technologies at this early stage?

Staying in touch with AR developments is likely valuable, and there are various ways to experiment with AR tools that can keep you up to date in this respect, while understanding VR developments is also important.

But what if a new, universal agreement is formed on what the requirements of metaverse avatars are, and that renders your avatar characters obsolete? What if some of these early metaverse projects are not able to meet the eventual requirements of the broader, interconnected metaverse, and are forced to shut down as a result?


There’s a lot that has to happen before the metaverse concept becomes a thing, and it’s important to view each of these elements in isolation, not as a singular, broad-reaching concept.

You can check out Meta’s latest metaverse shopping study here.

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