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Read this: Inside the mind of Elon Musk

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Inside the mind of Elon Musk…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello and well now not for the first time.

We need to talk about Elon Musk as I'm sure you've heard he bought Twitter in October and it's been quite a ride since he's shared misinformation BSAC lots of staff advised people have a vote in the US elections.

He suspended several journalists accounts and more generally has given the impression of a man who's making it up as you go along not least when he posted a Twitter poll asking if you should step down and 57% of people said yes, it's a story which has ramifications for many media companies and for all users but most of you won't use Twitter over 70% of people in the UK don't so before we go any further.

Let's look at why this matters to all of us.

Guess or Rebecca trouble director of The Institute for data democracy and politics at George Washington University and also John gapper business columnist at the Financial Times Rebecca thanks for coming on the media.

So why does this matter to all of us? Thanks for having me you know I think it's difficult for many people to understand why Twitter is so important because exactly as you just so few people are actually on Twitter even fewer people are actively using Twitter it's actually a relatively small social media company, but it has an incredibly outside wall in our larger information ecosystem, and it's primarily because first of all its public and so almost all of what's posted on the platform.

Is it for everyone to see but I think actually most importantly it's because such influential people are on the platform influential important politicians and policymakers.

When children important journalists are on the platform and that means that anytime something shows up on the platform with any of those people diamond portant it gets bred much beyond Twitter itself into the larger ecosystem, so that's why you say it matters John Flaherty what about you? Yeah? I think Rebecca's right I mean in financial terms Twitter's not that big it had just before you know must talk it over it had annual revenues of about 5 billion dollars.

That's makes it smaller than the BBC bi sum measure but I think it's significance for the reason she outlines.

It's become not just the social media network, but the media network is place which is very significant to media Brands to meet your organisations and individual journalist is equally significant to celebrities and government organisations is become a source of clearing.

Instant information West or is not only get broken but they get distributed and so for a relatively small number of people not the world's population is very significant place to be a significant place to be here to place which has evolved relatively gently as it's number of users has grown in recent years, but the last 2 months have been better or for worse let's bring in two people who have encountered in on must many times chorus.

Wishaw is a leading tech journalist and presenter of the podcast on with Kara swisher and she joined us on the coast of the States were also joined by decks Hunter toric vice president of global communications and public engagement of the meta oversight board meta being the company that was once called Facebook contains Facebook and a number of other apps and products.

You've met your most many times.

Have you been surprised how the last couple of months has played out?

Actually having a room doesn't of times and I've done since he started as an entrepreneur way back PayPal actually had a couple of context October that's when I first amendment and mid90s I think and so he's always better quirky and unusual person very brainy very typical of a Silicon Valley technology but this new version of him which is you know what sort of the troll having all the sort of right wing politics and calling calling point.

He's it's unusual he started playing a character sort of Internet even mask essentially when you used to talk with him back in the 90s and 2000s.

We talk politics Woody Express concerns about Libya America no never he was Obama supporter actually and that was I was calling a Democrat I don't know I've never really disgusted that match with him.

He's more of a libertarian light that.

Particularly intelligent about the way you talk about politics in general.

They missing my politics to go away and leave them alone to be geniuses.

That's that they're taking but so I think that he was very political.

I would say he had some opinions about is running various things and then you know during covid he started to really lose a little bit in terms of attitudes towards the government in conspiracy theories and things like that from the meta.

Oversight board won't your previous jobs with Elon musk's space c work with him.

Are you surprised? How the last 2 months have gone not particularly Elon is somebody who was officers a brilliant engineering leader and somebody who views the world.

You know as engineering challenges and you know if somebody now.

He's working on issues around content moderation around free speech round human rights.

I think a lot of the problems and challenges that.

Twitter honestly not engineering challenges, they are the very messy thorny issues of the impact of technology the impact of speech on society and loads of things which easy right or wrong answers, I think acting as there are quick solutions to solve these problems and make me kind of need rapid decisions.

I miss something that's not going to eat good results, but you say the solute is on engineering and they're not quick but you know must not argue that they're quick but car will not be right to say that in some ways Elon Musk does believe that engineering can sort out some of these problems are free speech and content moderation, but they weren't so powerful and Rich and and that's what's happening and it's so I think he does think that he could immediately control speech for the other than what you just can't do when people are messy and I

For every one of these problems as a manager anywhere his band is the people doesn't seem to like people you know what I mean in terms of because that cause different problems they claim different things that he's in his in In the Night Garden many lawsuits and they all have to do with some behavioral thing and he would think so everything will be solved by an equation.

I guess and that sort of let him out for easy though.

I think is a terrible troll and trying to make people angry and create controversy and call attention to himself and that's really that's been going on as long as time and he's just one of a long line of barnum's essentially what is doing here John from the ft.

You want to come in the mentioned the the libertarian idea of silicon.

I think that this is going on in the last couple of months and more muscles pushed this idea that the information flow of the world doesn't need the mediation of big brand.

Journalist the New York Times the BBC or whoever and it and if you put it all into a big mixer as he says the signal-to-noise ratio will will itself sort it out of utopian experiment in a sort of different form of Media outlets bring you in here and just to explain the the issue that we're wrestling with here.

It's simply that have a tech platform and people can put a whole range of information out there each platform and its own way and Dec's can talk about matters efforts on this with Facebook each platform has to think about how do I judge that information was acceptable what can stay what can't stay and so far every effort by a tech platform to to do this has has ended up being complicated and to some degree and successful there so many people who are pointing out these days, but eventually everything is content moderation online whether it's social media platforms or any other sort of.

Where real people are interacting with one another in our sharing their ideas and their information we have to have some form of content moderation because they're all bad actors who seek to manipulate those platforms to spread hate to spread disinformation maybe for their financial or their political gain.

There's simply no easy way to do content moderation the idea that engineering that algorithm can solve these problems is really really nice something that we have known as naive for well over a decade now.

It takes real people to do and lots and lots of real people use you lots of real people and Dec's you now working competitor of Twitter's I wonder what you thought as you saw you I must letting go quote a few of the staff who worked on Twitter content moderation operation.

I mean it's entirely reasonable.

To make the argument that there might be too many people working at Twitter and the organisation is not configured in the right way particularly to ride out the next couple of years ago during a global recession also make the argument that you are getting rid of a lot of people very very rapidly you know in the sort of haphazard way is also not the right approach to rebuilding an organisation but also and bring you in here to some degree Twitter content moderation at the moment seems to be Elon musk's experience of Twitter is responding to individual situations and we had the very high profile situ several well-known German listen the US having their their account suspended.

I wonder what you thought when you heard that happened.

You know it is just devastated the staff there until they had systems in place and rules and he just doesn't want any rules and so he fire everybody essentially and so the people in charge of trust and save your operating you know.

And then he just makes decisions we need to act on and it's sort of like having a captain queeg insured and you know discussing what happened to whatever that happened that will be with where's the apple pie in everyone has to jump and so you know he'll just say something and they have to do it and then it takes up their time for other things and they had a bunch of rose in place.

He didn't like it.

Just doesn't staff time and doesn't change them and then therefore makes decisions himself and speak a lot of it in the middle of the night he stays up quite late exhaust himself at his famous for that.

It's going to take it that you does that but but that's what he does any any you know if something makes you need to slow down a little bit.

I know that my saved humanity that is saying he must save humanity.

He has a big thing about being the saviour me and loads of night.

Doesn't work humanity is doomed.

I was like okay, alright.

I think it's all bigger than that and bigger than you, but that's ok.

You know I think he just does things when he feels like and often late at night when he's not sleeping in working in Mannequin and whatever else is up to you know I mean and so it's so it creates a really unusual situation in the workplace and interesting that those of us in the UK you'll often get up in the morning if you use Twitter and look on Twitter Elon Musk tweet and you look at you double check the time anything.

What's the time on the west coast meeting my going to see is he's other early Irish car is suggesting staying up late and text you want to come.

I'm going back to the Engineering prism of Elon and I think a lot of people and Silicon Valley you know I think because people and do the world through the series of Engineering challenges there is often a distained the idea you need a lot of people from a lot of other disciplines to help navigate through these societal problem, so I mean actually you know.

Policy needs social scientists and researchers to navigate through a lot of these things and these are off and functions which you know are coming from the same kind of background that a lot of silicon value does natural respect and to go.

Yeah, I mean I am I think that's right and I was actually more sympathetic to Elon Musk when he when he started this process.

You're busy toast a position to offer for Twitter then realised he didn't want to buy it at that price then got forced into it and then since his own.

Did I felt more sympathetic to the idea that is experimenting in real-time that this is more of a lot of people say this is no way to run a railroad but actually he's saying this is an organisation in Crisis I'm going to try different things and if that doesn't work and something else tomorrow and maybe he's got a pretty good track record of running other companies may be something will come of it no more recently.

I think the pressure has been getting to a bit a bit so no, it's not ideal and

You can't say that, please carry on he made a terrible deal and he had to live with it and adults two adults two quite sure you need to do it by say same people that pop Pelosi putting up really inaccurate things about the Speaker of the House husband getting beaten and protect putting up really wholesale anti-gay information or insulting people or slagging people not paying them severance this isn't real time.

That's see what happens.

It's needlessly cruel and had to me that's no problem as long as they have resulted in some cases.

This is just ridiculous his conduct and specifics of what he's been posting such as the ones you've listed, but let's bring you in what about this idea that John's exploring that actually for the reasons that dex has been outlining.

Everyone is wrestling with content moderation.

It's difficult no one's cracked it and so if someone is coming.

Different approach which save for example allows Donald Trump to be on Twitter because there are lots of other people on Twitter who's track record Warren's analysing as well well perhaps.

It's interesting to explore those it is rather than to simply stay on the same track that many tech companies have been on for the last five years such an incredibly hard problem.

There are no easy solutions to any of this and I think the point that you need many different perspectives coming from many different angles many different disciplines and so on is absolutely spot-on the Sword of in a Silicon Valley that is often well.

We can just use the wisdom of the crowd in whether to get that and actually a point that that my mum has been making himself the problem there and as himself has pointed out is that all of these systems on any social Media platform can be gained by bad actors so the minute that you put this to the wisdom of the Crowd you have a number of.

Going to jump in and try to manipulate that and that includes the very paused that he's been putting out there to to undertake decision-making right.

I've learnt a new Verde this week, which country and there's no brigading where bots all come together to to twist a pole one way or the other so the pole outcome is not really based on what real people think it's based on what it's going to be released by Bad Faith actor are trying to do and as such texts.

Did he used to use poles when you were working with them at SpaceX to decide what to do with the rockets or not? I don't recall on on rockets.

I think you know when your master in the USA 40.

Get to make it up so much as you go, but you do with a major Tech platform.

It seems to an extent that exactly what's been playing up but of course you know it struck me as this conversation all of these issues are playing out in the shadow of a new set of regulations that are coming into force in places like the UK with the online safety bill at the digital services act in Europe certainly the rule.

Social media changing their being toughen governments and a lot of other actors are looking at this face with a lot of Security now and some of those regulations are coming from national bodies or international bodies for example the European Union is taking positions on what platforms can and can't do is there a natural evolution of that you don't just have these regulations applying to private please you actually have digital spaces which are outside of private companies, so it's not at the whim of one company or one owner like Elon Musk it's there a public digital space is that something has Rebecca let me bring you in on that something that perhaps is what needs to be explored is that what we've been reminded of Here the fragility and the unpredictability of privately owned digital spaces thing here is that it's been Warwickshire information order Media ecosystem.

That is steak but anyone actor when anyone all of these platforms are so closely it.

To one another and communication never stays some idea that shared on one platform never stays specifically on that platform, so the moment that you have as a major disruption within any single one of these platforms even one that is in the scheme of things as relatively smallest with his you actually have a destruction across YouTube Across the entire information ecosystem, and I think that was particularly driven home earlier this week, when must began actually buying or suspending accounts from really prominent journalists on Twitter the platform is a place where those journalists used to you know the user to get there stories out to find edition stories to talk to interact with real people in a moment that platform is is no longer available to them it really disrupt the entire information ecosystem.

I think that there's a discretely difficulty with these private networks on the power of them, but it's quite difficult to shift from them.

I'm in the network effect means that we've seen a lot of people on Twitter saying oh hey I've got a new account of mastodon.

Which is an open source network come over and join me there but the way that these networks work.

It doesn't work.

If one or two people go everybody has to go once but isn't it true in car you can help me with this that really the impact of tech platforms like Twitter are partly about the networks that people build around themselves, but it is also about the algorithm.

You can have the network but if the algorithm is working against you that the network will only account for so much.

Yeah, I mean I don't agree that people can move on for 30 companies that don't exist anymore Myspace they are well.

Everybody moved on people move on and no networks are formed and Improvements are made or people like something different or you know all the kids are on.

People move very quickly aim was another one.

I can think doesn't and doesn't have companies, but you want to put a place that you enjoy what you're doing and I'm making connections and communities you want that's really with new technologies that are better and help companies and people listening will be able to remember many of them at all.

I was once on there and now I can't have you noticed patterns.

Are there things that you can spot in a tech company.

We think I'm a good as this good this good all collapse very quickly and are you seeing those things in Twitter well? I think they all do call outs overtime.

I don't think any of them think people are you seeing was having a tic Tac really impacting Facebook and other companies so people move you know there's a pasta made by walking and that's what consumers do and then move onto the next thing and it's inevitable that this would happen now.

He was pushing a long very fast by making it really unpleasant place for 4.

Like who like it and they're going off and I'll find something else and that you can't get back.

I have to say you can't get that feeling that I can see you wanted to come in here.

Is that the more public the social Media platform the more dependant.

They are on site powered by volume content creators, so I tiktok and Instagram a Twitter in particular are really really vulnerable to collapse if in essence those really prominent content creators decided.

It's time to move on and I think that mean risk with going after the journalist who really make Twitter what it is and Dec's you're with metal which owns Instagram as well as Facebook and WhatsApp to what degree is very focused on creating environments where content creators feel comfortable feel settled.

We saw that you know over the last few years, how they looked at bouncing for example song that algorithms to be promoting more content from Close connections rather just put information because what we found that as there's more and more chaos in the world as people showing more more news actually that doesn't make for particularly compelling ecosystem people actually don't enjoy being there.

I think you know building on what Carol I think this is I think the concern with Twitter stoking chaos as a means of drying in engagement.

I think I want to be able to go enjoy it one more question of all of you because I think people listening might be be wondering you might have heard it on my repeatedly that his finances and not in good shape, but there's a risk of going bankrupt, but it may not be the biggest tech platform in the world, but it's one of the biggest.

It's hugely influential.

It's become one of the most high impact companies have recent years how on earth.

Are you not able to turn that situation into making an awful lot of money Cara

Sorrento series of different managers who tried all kinds of different things I think if I had a single answer Facebook people will like in Facebook better and that was it and people using and now they bypass to predict are like they just wasn't it? Wasn't providing enough enough for advertisers.

It wasn't providing enough for people to pay for products that people wanted to pay for the orphan were at the beginning of things are fine and periscope and that's tiktok.

I'm sorry to tell you that you know they had a lot of the early steps of just one table to execute them.

You're the one with you posted 6 S videos right at 11 of them remember.

Spending more time than I care to admit trying to make it work as a format and slowly out from under them in literally and evening I will be glad that we did I expect given the scale of Instagram at the moment and John why don't you think the empty obviously is focused on business is why can't Twitter regardless of Elon Musk

Why can't I turn this into a serious money-making operation? I mean that there's two problems with musk one is his powder lot of debt on the company and the Debt has to be paid for and seems to be an alienating quite a few advertisers and he's been trying to get a subscription-based going of users paying for it with this new Twitter blue program, but the truth is is being a bit of a fragile state for really quite long time.

I didn't Mark Zuckerberg Facebook once compared it to a clown car that fell into mine, but the gold mine hasn't been producing much gold and it's not actually getting any better description.

Let me just running towards the end of the program here as the coverage of the story has played out we can last you divide it into two camps people are going this guys.

Just a fool.

Running a 44 billion dollar investment into the floor other people are going actually this method to The Madness here.

You got a break things move fast to try and get some when you texted you work with him which camp do you fall into while I think it would be a mistake against alarm you know he's obviously achieve some immense things with Tesla and SpaceX will have to see right now the news around Twitter's on folding as a break let you know we wake up in the morning in Europe and receive what happen overnight and it's almost impossible to keep up with this one over the next few months in years.

You think he's got a plan is this part of a grand plan and hardware and things like that immediate hard and and this idea that they can do anything it's just a Cunard it's not there not good at everything and I think I'll be a mathematician.

Because I'm good at journalism a really good also.

I must be able to handle this it's not true.

It's an anything we have this sort of adult patient of these text people in ways that they're just not capable.

Maybe they're broken men who want attention and in a wasn't enough to be the richest man in the world and do amazing things with car the rockets that I have to tell you everything that pops into the care about you.

That's one possible explanation imagine you would have another when was the last time we spoke to him Cara or exchanging messages for him.

He was asking me what I should do it with her and then he didn't remind me I have fallen and this is the kind of thing that goes on it and some ways and so you know I haven't had a long back and forth about what happened it with her every realised that buy it was angry about that, but it was his own fault and then and then it just ok well.

I know I've no doubt I've only got 50 seconds on curious all four of you.

Just may be the one word answer.

Are you going to stay on she going to keep using a Cara yes? It's great Rebecca passively and Dec's Tbd a few weeks.

I really why you not sure.

I think I'll wait and see how the utility poles up again.

You know things I have been so quickly there.

They said we need to talk about it again on the media show but for the moment that is alright.

I'm up.

Thank you to all four of you Kara swisher you can listen to on on the car on with Kara swisher the podcast Rebecca trouble from George Washington University John gapper from the FT index 100 part of the metal oversight board will speak to you next week.

Bye bye.

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