A Musky Odor Thwarts X Academicians

November 15, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

How does a tech mogul stamp out research? The American way, of course! Ars Technica reveals, “100+ Researchers Say they Stopped Studying X, Fearing Elon Musk Might Sue Them.” A recent Reuters report conducted by the Coalition for Independent Technology Research found a fear of litigation and jacked-up data-access fees are hampering independent researchers. All while X (formerly Twitter) is under threat of EU fines for allowing Israel/Hamas falsehoods. Meanwhile, the usual hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation continue. The company insists its own, internal mechanisms are doing a fine job, thank you very much, but it is getting harder and harder to test that claim. Writer Ashley Belanger tells us:

“Although X’s API fees and legal threats seemingly have silenced some researchers, X has found some other partners to support its own research. In a blog last month, Yaccarino named the Technology Coalition, Anti-Defamation League (another group Musk threatened to sue), American Jewish Committee, and Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) among groups helping X ‘keep up to date with potential risks’ and supporting X safety measures. GIFCT, for example, recently helped X identify and remove newly created Hamas accounts. But X partnering with outside researchers isn’t a substitute for external research, as it seemingly leaves X in complete control of spinning how X research findings are characterized to users. Unbiased research will likely become increasingly harder to come by, Reuters’ survey suggested.”

Indeed. And there is good reason to believe the company is being less than transparent about its efforts. We learn:

“For example, in July, X claimed that a software company that helps brands track customer experiences, Sprinklr, supplied X with some data that X Safety used to claim that ‘more than 99 percent of content users and advertisers see on Twitter is healthy.’ But a Sprinklr spokesperson this week told Reuters that the company could not confirm X’s figures, explaining that ‘any recent external reporting prepared by Twitter/X has been done without Sprinklr’s involvement.’”

Musk is famously a “free speech absolutist,” but only when it comes to speech he approves of. Decreasing transparency will render X more dangerous, unless and until its decline renders it irrelevant. Fear the musk ox.

Cynthia Murrell, November 15, 2023


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