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Hate and misinformation spread after Musk’s Twitter takeover of Opinion

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In just two weeks, Musk’s acquisition of Twitter has taken the internet by storm.

Hate speech and disinformation have already escalated with what appear to be mostly trolls and right-wing extremists trying to test the limits of Musk’s approach to unfettered free speech on his newly acquired platform.

Twitter chaos comes at another time of internet transformation. Not only is the online space facing regulation on a global scale, but advances in artificial intelligence are not standing still to become the tools of tomorrow’s disinformation.

Deepfakes, which attracted a lot of attention in 2022 (from relatively minor mistakes, like the one with JK Rowling, to potentially more dangerous ones, like that of the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky telling its citizens to lay down their arms), represents only the fallout of burgeoning AI technology that can promote misinformation better than ever.

A new set of technology is fully synthetic media. Text-to-image technology evolved over the years as advanced models such as static diffusion and DAL-E (both freely available) enabled users to create their own synthetic images from scratch using only a text prompt. Hey. Meta also announced “Make video” coming out in September, allowing users to create their own fully synthetic videos with just a simple text prompt.

These techniques have enormous potential for misinformation, warns new report From Democracy Reporting International; You just need to decide which false story you want to promote and create “evidence” for it.

And once the right story hits the internet—perhaps at the right time to disrupt an election, for example—it’s difficult or impossible to contain the damage. For many people, seeing is still believing, no matter how quickly you fact-check.

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The rapid reformation of partially synthetic and fully synthetic media coincided with changes in Twitter’s leadership and priorities, as well as increasing regulation of the Internet. Emerging threats demand new solutions and, above all, suitable and capable leaders.

Earlier in his acquisition, Musk expressed concerns about the number of bot accounts on Twitter, giving the impression that he was concerned about the integrity of the platform. But in reality, the concern was a worn-out attempt to get out of an overpriced proposition.

A better understanding of their true priorities comes from the start twitter blueTwitter plans to offer blue checks for verification through a monthly subscription.

Despite warnings that the subscription service would not only have a limited impact on the bottom line, it would also expose Twitter to trolls who use the ability to impersonate real personalities, organizations and charities. And it did. Only $8 per month.

As a result, news of Twitter’s declining digital health comes out every day. First, it was reports of increased hate speech and disinformation, then it was alternatives like the Great Twitter Exodus Mastodon (the jury is still out). Twitter Blue blessed us with trolls posing as legitimate accounts.

And now recent evidence has shown that Twitter’s political profile is changing: in the United States, Republican congressmen gained less than half a million new followers overall and Democrats lost a similar number. The trend worries many, who suspect that the increase in Republican Twitter users is driven by Musk’s dog whistle tactics and will contribute to a platform with more hate speech and disinformation.

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One wonders what might happen to disinformation actors powered by new tools on these platforms. In times of rapid change, leadership is important, but under Musk’s leadership, many fear that Twitter will not only become a pylon of hate speech, disinformation, and unsustainable behavior, but that it will also erase the progress Twitter has made. has already done to counter them.

To date, the platform has made progress and made good efforts to respond to threats and promote digital health. They have been relatively quick to respond to new threats and political updates such as Policy Complete invasion of Ukraine. But in recent weeks there have been cuts in the teams that made these advances possible and key safety-related positions have resigned.

Report after report shows that Musk continues relentlessly with no plans to return. At this rate, it’s hard to see how Twitter will survive, at least in the form as we know it. Failing that, an important space for political discussion will be lost.

Heather Daniel Thompson is the Digital Democracy Manager for Democracy Reporting International, a non-profit organization that promotes democracy around the world.

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