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X Continues to Amplify Misinformation as We Head Towards the US Election


Honestly, I’m not sure what else Elon Musk needs to do to demonstrate his narcissistic lack of empathy, and clear personal bias over established facts, before people will stop listening to his erratic and grudge-motivated claims.

This week, Elon directly stated that he doesn’t fact-check what he posts on X, nor does he go to any effort to validate the credibility of the people that he engages with in the app, which effectively amplifies their posts to his 180 million followers.

In a deposition relating to a claim that Musk’s posts in the app caused significant harm to a user whom he falsely identified as a member of ANTIFA, Musk said that it would be “impossible” for him to confirm the identity of every user that he responds every day.

Which is even more concerning given that Musk also recently helped to amplify the false claim that hundreds of thousands of voters are registering without a photo ID in the U.S., a conspiracy theory that he’s repeatedly boosted, despite there being no basis for such suggestions.

Indeed, electoral officials have confirmed that this is not happening, yet their clarifications have gained far less traction in the app. That’s because Elon is the single most followed X user, and every post that he interacts with sees a massive boost.

But Musk himself believes that Community Notes will solve this:

But that’s not true, because for one, the noted claim about voter registrations, which has been proven to be false, doesn’t have a community note in the app.

What’s more, many of the accounts that Musk engages regularly are themselves the most community noted, which suggests that they too don’t do their research, adding to the cacophony of false claims being amplified in the app.

And as researchers have also demonstrated, flaws within the Community Notes system ensure that certain notes never get shown anyway. Community Notes require consensus from users with differing political viewpoints in order for a note to be displayed. On certain topics, that consensus will never come, so no note gets shown on such claims.

Add to this the fact that Community Notes are too slow to be displayed, which leads to many false claims getting mass amplification before they’re flagged with a correction, and you can imagine how significant the damage caused by these posts could be leading into the upcoming election.

And Elon himself is arguably the chief amplifier of these claims.

In principle, Community Notes can serve a valuable role, in providing users with a means to refute false claims in the app. But in isolation, without strong moderation from the platform itself, it’s simply not enough. And when the most influential user is also prone to platforming conspiracy theories and misleading info, it’s a dangerous mix, which is absolutely going to mislead many voters leading into the upcoming poll.

Essentially, X is not doing enough to dispel misinformation, and in fact, its current processes seem deliberately geared towards boosting alternative angles, under the guise of free speech.

But again, Musk himself has said that he doesn’t fact-check these claims, while he’s also repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t understand, or care about, the potential harm caused by his posts.

In this latest legal filing, for example, Musk stated that he didn’t think that the defendant had been “materially harmed” by his posts, despite the defendant being forced to flee his home due to direct threats as a result of Musk’s misidentification.

Musk claimed the same in the case of the cave diver whom he baselessly labeled a pedophile back in 2018. As a result, the cave diver was subjected to harassment and ongoing misrepresentation, while he’s also expressed concern that his name and reputation will be forever tarnished through linkage to Musk’s false accusation. Even worse, Musk actually hired a private detective to dig up dirt on the man, as he looked to build his defense case. Essentially, Musk sought evidence to show this was indeed a bad person, in order ruin the man’s reputation, for no other reason than Musk was miffed because the cave diving team had rejected his offer of assistance.

Yet, when the case went in Musk’s favor on a legal technicality, 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. Indeed, he believes that this should be his right, because Musk himself is never going to be in the same situation as these people whom he’s needlessly smeared.

Elon Musk has bodyguards in his orbit at all times, and he doesn’t have to worry about threats and reputational damage in the same way. The regular person doesn’t have the capacity to weather such attacks in the same way, but Elon sees no problem with this.

The same as Tesla saw no problem in releasing the personal information of a TikTok car reviewer who criticized their cars, or how Elon repeatedly attacked former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth, which forced Roth to also flee his home due to concerns for his safety.

Elon didn’t experience these impacts himself, so in his view, they didn’t happen, and these people, whom he’s incorrectly named and shamed, pushing them into spotlight on them for all of his fanboys to target, are of no concern to him.

They’re collateral damage, minor impacts in the path towards “free speech”. And again, virtually all of these situations came about because Elon admittedly doesn’t research, doesn’t double-check, and really, doesn’t care if people whom he believes are the enemy, for whatever reason, get hurt.

There are many, many examples of this. In another case, last year, Elon publicly accused a former Twitter employee of doing no work and using his disability as an excuse to avoid tasks. Except, that wasn’t true, and Musk acknowledged such once he was informed of the situation. But again, this is what Elon thinks freedom of speech is, a license to criticize anything and anyone, without consequence, because it’s all just words, and should all be considered civic debate.

But it’s not. If you or I were to make such claims, we’d risk being sued into the ground, and we wouldn’t have the resources to defend against it. And we don’t have the platform that Elon does, which is the key differentiator in this argument.

The fact of the matter is that, as one of the most followed social media users in the world, if not the most followed, what Elon Musk says matters, and it does have a material impact. Musk’s perspective influences the thinking of millions of people, which means that his comments can indeed harm the reputation of individuals, and can influence how people respond to news stories.

And potentially, how people vote.

Elon’s view is that we should allow all perspectives to be heard, no matter how crazy or ill-informed, because we can then all debate them on their merits, which will lead to a more informed outcome. But by amplifying harmful conspiracies and untruths at all, he’s risking significant harm, on a broad scale.

And it could get much worse.

As I wrote back in 2022, Elon’s Musk’s perspective on what free speech is likely differs from your own, and that, combined with his huge platform, is a potentially dangerous combination.

Again, he doesn’t research, he doesn’t fact check his sources, and he doesn’t care about the consequences. This is not the person who should be in charge of deciding moderation policies at a major social network.

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