January 29, 2023

UNMUSKED: Bot his E-polls!

DESPERATE MEASURES: Chief Twit is so behind on rent, he's doing this to raise money

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Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s recently tweeted polls may not be on the up and up. According to former employees, they’re little more than bot magnets – easily manipulated by fake accounts.


Former Head of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth, confirmed to Rolling Stone that the company chose to abandon logging users’ votes and data in the interest of privacy.

“One of the first products I worked on was polls, Roth said. “And one of the big discussions was around the tradeoffs between integrity and privacy.”

NYU professor David Galloway told Vox’s Kara Swisher on an episode of their podcast “Pivot” that “The more moderation” there is, “the more profitable the platform” will be, adding that Musk is “alienating people, people don’t want to be part of the cesspool.”

“’It’s a poll!’ Oh yeah? Okay sure, like just when you ran the poll around whether you should sell Tesla stock, and then it ended up you had been selling stock all along?” he said. “He should absolutely take that poll and stick it up his a**. I’m just sick of these people,” Galloway continued.

Musk received instant backlash after creating a poll asking whether he should reinstate Donald Trump’s account.

Users balked at the idea of the former President being allowed back on the platform, after being permanently banned nearly two years ago for inciting his MAGA base to violence.

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“Before Elon took over, there were entire teams of people who did market and user research, who followed rigorous protocols established to conduct this kind of research. Suddenly, he’s running Twitter off of completely unscientific polls that are polling unknown people, and certainly not any kind of demographically representative swath of people.” — Sarah Roberts, Faculty Director UCLA’s Center for Critical Internet Inquiry

Those voting in favor of Trump’s return barely edged out the nay-sayers – winning with 51.8% o the vote – one former Twitter employees believe was largely influenced by bot activity.

“Polls are more prone to manipulation than almost anything else [on Twitter ], Roth said. “It’s interesting, given his [Elon’s use] of polls.”

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The billionaire troll was widely condemned by those on the left, and members of civil rights groups like the NAACP, who urged the newly turned MAGA to reconsider – he didn’t.

What Musk did do, however, was released yet another disturbing poll not likely to endear the narcissistic billionaire to his rapidly decreasing revenue base of advertisers.

When users were asked if accounts were previously banned for hate speech, misinformation, violent threats, and harassment, nearly three million users, overwhelmingly voted yes.

“Amnesty begins next week,” Musk announced, prompting calls for the troubled app to be removed from Apple and Google Play.

“What Musk is doing is existentially dangerous for various marginalized communities, an instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic, Alejandra Caraballo, told Taylor Lorenz at The Washington Post. 

It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause. People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying,  calls for violence, celebration of violence. I can’t even begin to state how dangerous this will be.

“A Twitter poll can be manipulated, there’s nothing scientific or rigorous in any way about what he’s doing,” Roberts said.

Musk’s newfound affinity for bot-influenced polls is a complete turnaround for the new owner.

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It was just six months ago that the Tesla and SpaceX CEO tried desperately to get out of his contract to buy the app by claiming the company misrepresented the number of fake accounts, relative to active ones.

But for Elon, everything is a means to an end.

For now, he appears to be sucking up to the alt-right, Nazi-loving trolls previously banned – for good reason – while alienating advertisers, left wing users, and international governments in the process.

Original reporting by Taylor Lorenz at The Washington Post.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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