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

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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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Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments

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Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments

Twitter has taken its next steps towards facilitating payments in the app, with The Financial Times reporting that the company has begun applying for regulatory licenses in US states, the next legal requirement for providing payment services in the app.

Payments, which Elon Musk has a long history in, could be another way for Twitter to generate revenue, by enabling transactions between users, from which it would then take a small percentage. Musk has repeatedly flagged his vision for payments as part of his broader push to make Twitter into an ‘everything app’, which would provide more functionality and usage benefits.  

As reported by FT:

In November, Twitter registered with the US Treasury as a payments processor, according to a regulatory filing. It has now also begun to apply for some of the state licenses it would need in order to launch, these people said. The remainder would be filed shortly, in the hope that US licensing was completed within a year, one of the people said.”

From there, Twitter would also look to establish agreements with international regulators to enable payments in all regions.

As noted, payments are a part of Elon’s broader plans for a more functional app, which would replicate the utility of China’s WeChat, which is used by Chinese citizens for everything from ordering groceries, to buying public transport tickets, to paying bills, etc. WeChat has become such a crucial connective element, that it formed a key part of China’s COVID response, with authorities using the app as a means to manage COVID positive citizens and restrict their movement.

Musk isn’t ideally looking to use Twitter as a control device (I don’t think), but the broader concept is to add in more and more functionality, in order to both generate more income for the company, and make the app a more critical element in the interactive landscape.

Twitter’s already exploring several options on this front.

Several app researchers have uncovered mock-ups for Twitter Coins in the back-end of the app.

Via Twitter coins, users would be able to make donations to creators in the app, through on-profile tipping, but beyond that, Twitter’s also exploring options like unlockable tweets, paywalled video, and more, as it seeks to embed broader usage and adoption of in-app payments.

A big opportunity also exists to facilitate remittance, or sending money to family and friends, which is a key use case in many regions. Remittance payment services often charge processing fees, and various social apps have been trying to find new ways to facilitate such without the same costs, with the idea being that once people are moving their money in-app, they’ll then be more likely to spend it in the same place.

Thus far, social platforms that do offer payments haven’t been able to embed this as a use case – but maybe, with Musk’s experience, knowledge and connections, he might be able to make this work in tweets.

Elon, of course, got his start in payments, with his first company, an online bank called X.com, being bought out by PayPal in 1999, his first big business win. And while his focus has since shifted to electric cars and rockets, Musk has keen understanding of the digital payments space, and how it can be adapted for varied usage.

According to reports, Musk told Twitter investors in May last year, that his aim was to see Twitter bring in about $1.3 billion in payment revenues by 2028.

That would give the company a sorely needed boost. After Musk’s cost-cutting efforts, which have resulted in the reduction of around 70% of Twitter staff, the company could be on track to potentially break even this year, or close, but a lot has to go right to get the platform back on track. And with advertisers continuing to back away from Twitter spend, it’s not looking good, while subscriptions to Twitter Blue are unlikely to provide much relief, at least at this stage.

As such, the shift into payments can’t come fast enough, though it’ll still be some time before we see the possibility of in-app payments.

Also, while Musk has made it clear fiat currency will be the main focus of this push in its initial phase, cryptocurrencies could also, eventually, be included. The price of Dogecoin, Musk’s favorite crypto offering, rose to a 24-hour high after news broke of Elon’s expanded payments plan.

Will payments be the answer to Twitter’s revenue woes? Maybe, if Elon’s vision for billions in payments revenue comes to fruition – and with his previous track record, you can’t dismiss the notion entirely.

But it’ll take time, many approvals, and many more steps before we reach the next stage.

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Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing

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Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing

Chief Growth Officer (CGO) at HypeFactory, a global influencer marketing agency.

It’s no secret that influencer marketing popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, and partnering with influencers isn’t a new concept. Just over the past year, the industry was valued at $16.4 billion and still keeps growing, with a whopping revenue forecast of $143.10 billion in 2030.

Since the beginning of influencer marketing, people have talked about how influencers and social responsibility fit together. It stands to reason that influential people would use their large fan bases to help others. However, when influencers and businesses collaborate, they each have specific responsibilities to the communities in which they operate.

Sponsorship Transparency And Gender Stereotypes

One of the most critical skills for an influencer is honesty. Influencers base their marketing strategy on being genuine and sharing personal tales and thoughts with their target audience. They are not celebrities living in a bubble of fame that very few of their followers will ever reach; instead, they live lifestyles that are reachable and use items that their viewers would find helpful. This approach has significantly contributed to their immense level of success.

However, many influencers don’t play by the rules, especially when it comes to impressing brands they’ve made deals with, even though transparency is essential to the sustainability of an influencer’s career. Because of this, many people would think that the most important ethical issue in influencer marketing is sponsorship disclosure.

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom have all put out rules about how influencers should be honest in their posts and about their relationships with brands. If you disobey the regulations, you risk facing penalties, fines and legal bills. You also risk losing the trust of your customers for good.

Moreover, when doing influencer marketing, it’s essential to consider gender stereotypes and how people usually think men and women will act in different situations. The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has said that since June 2019, marketing materials could no longer show men and women in ways that are based on stereotypes. These rules state that ads “must not use gender stereotypes that are likely to hurt or offend a large number of people.” Great campaigns, like Nike’s “Dream Crazier,” have challenged gender preconceptions.

Improving Influencer Marketing’s Reliability And Authenticity

Authenticity is essential in influencer marketing. People listen to influencers who are honest and relatable. In addition to the moral problems I mentioned above, brands and influencers must also follow FTC rules, community guidelines and terms of service on social media platforms.

Based on my experience as a chief growth officer at a global influencer marketing agency, here are some things brands must consider for influencer partnerships that are authentic and reliable.

Outline—and stick to—the ethical principles that your brand stands for.

Before you can begin your search for the ideal influencers, you must first understand the core principles of representing your business. Most businesses start by determining their values and ethics early on. They then use these to build their brand identity. It’s up to each company’s brand to decide where they will draw the line and how they will show their core values on social media.

However, consumers place a high value on consistent honesty. Customers are likely to call out your company for being hypocritical if it says it wants to fight racism but then partners with an influencer who has a history of making small slights against people of color. Or if your company promotes equal pay yet pays female influencers less than it does male influencers, contributing to the continuation of the pay gap between male and female influencers.

As a result, you will likely lose the trust of these customers.

Collaborate with real influencers.

One of the most effective ways to stick to influencer marketing principles is by collaborating with real-life influencers. Choosing the right influencers is crucial for building consumer confidence in your product.

Determine which influencers are authentic and have credibility with your intended audience. Specifically, it would be best to look at how many people engage with their content and how good it is. Even though engagement numbers are essential, they only tell part of the story about an influencer’s reliability. Please pay close attention to their writing style, the brands they’ve worked with, the accuracy of their reviews, etc.

Develop a long-term partnership.

When you’ve found a group of genuine, influential people with whom you can collaborate successfully, it’s crucial to keep in touch with them over time. Even if they are paid to review a product, genuine influencers always give honest opinions. Because they follow all the rules, the spectator can have more faith in them.

Consequently, after a shortlist of influencers has been compiled, you should perform authenticity checks. Check their content feed for branded articles. Make sure that any disclaimers you find adhere to the first point’s disclosure guidelines. Consistently partnering with the same influencers demonstrates to customers that you value their brand’s success just as much as they do, which can increase consumer confidence in your business.

Conclusion

Authenticity serves as the cornerstone of the influencer marketing strategy. Influencers earn the trust of their followers and become successful when they always provide high-quality, authentic, relatable content.

In addition to the concerns over the morality of influencer marketing, brands and influencers must follow the criteria established by the FTC and the community guidelines and terms of service based on social media platforms. You can shield your brand from potential ethical and legal difficulties and still enjoy success with influencer marketing if you are aware of the expectations and follow certain best practices.


Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


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Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]

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Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]

Looking to give your social profiles a visual refresh for the new year?

This could help – the team from Giraffe Social Media recently put together an overview of the whys and hows of building your brand via your social profile visuals.

There are some good notes here – a key consideration is consistency, which ensures that you’re building your brand with every post and update.

Check out the full infographic below.

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