Twitter chief executive, Jack Dorsey turned to Elon Musk on Thursday for “some direct feedback” on how to fix his platform during a company meeting in Houston. And, it’s safe to say the Tesla CEO made some solid points, touching on things we've all been thinking.
“I think it would be helpful to differentiate between real and fake users,” Musk said, according to a video posted to Twitter by an employee. “Is this a real person or is this a botnet or a sort of troll army or something like that?”
Musk went on to add: “Basically, how do you tell if the feedback is real or someone trying to manipulate the system, or probably real, or probably trying to manipulate the system?” Musk continued. “What do people actually want, what are people actually upset about versus manipulation of the system by various interest groups.”
“Basically, how do you tell if the feedback is real or someone trying to manipulate the system?”
It makes sense — If you're thinking this is a weird exchange, it's really not. Back in February, during a live-tweet interview Dorsey was asked who he thinks is the most exciting and influential person on his platform.
His reply? “To me personally? I like how @elonmusk uses Twitter," Dorsey said. "He’s focused on solving existential problems and sharing his thinking openly. I respect that a lot, and all the ups and downs that come with it.”
Musk, who boasts 30.7 million Twitter followers, has had his fair share of controversial pitfalls on the platform. The tech entrepreneur called a British cave driver a “pedo guy” back in 2017, leading to a defamation lawsuit over the tweet. In 2018, he tweeted about possibly taking Tesla private, which led to much upheaval among investors and the SEC — it also cost him his job as chairman of Tesla.
The problem with bots — Bots and trolls hold a special place on the platform of nearly 126 million daily users. Recently, the Twitter hashtag #NeverWarren rose to trending status. The hashtag followed a spat between presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and opposing candidate, Bernie Sanders during a Democratic primary debate. It was highly speculated that bots were involved in the viral trending topic. And not just any bots, but Russian bots.
Twitter later announced that it found no evidence bots were involved in the #NeverWarren hashtag. But it does make a case for concerns surrounding deceptive disinformation campaigns or the manufactured marketing campaigns that somehow slip through the cracks.
In 2017, Colin Crowell, Twitter’s vice president of public policy, government and philanthropy shared the social network’s approach to misinformation and bots.
"We’re working hard to detect spammy behaviors at source, such as the mass distribution of Tweets or attempts to manipulate trending topics,” said Crowell in a blog post. Of course, stamping out bots and sock puppet accounts (dummy accounts run by other users) would negatively impact Twitter's daily and month active user numbers — something the company is desperate to avoid.
But, it’s not just Twitter. Bots and trolls are a pain point for most social networks. I mean, after all, that is one of many ways Facebook came under fire for influencing the 2016 presidential election.