Twitter is not the town square – it’s just a private shop.

My take on the Musk-Twitter saga.

Musk now declares himself to be a “free speech absolutist”. He doesn’t, however, seem to have done much thinking about what would actually be involved in running a platform based on absolutist principles. As the FT’s John Thornhill put it: “He grandly declares that maximal free speech reduces civilisational risk. Cue widespread applause. But back in the day, Twitter also described itself as ‘the free speech wing of the free speech party’. Then it collided with porn bots, cyberbullies and terrorist extremists. ‘We have tried that. It did not work, Elon,’ says a former Twitter executive.”

Musk suffers from the delusion that “Twitter has become the de-facto town square”, which, frankly, is baloney. The internet, as Mike Masnick points out, is the metaphorical “town square”. Twitter is just one small private shop in that space – a shop in which hyperventilating elites, trolls, journalists and millions of bots hang out and fight with one another.

He also seems to have forgotten that Twitter operates outside the first-amendment-obsessed US – in Europe, for example. Last Tuesday, Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for the internal market, warned that Twitter must follow European rules on moderating illegal and harmful content online, even after it goes private. “We welcome everyone,” said Breton. “We are open but on our conditions… ‘Elon, there are rules. You are welcome but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here.’” Since Musk seems temperamentally allergic to rules imposed by governmental agencies, Twitter under his command should have interesting challenges ahead in Europe…

Read on

Monday 2 May, 2022

The “people’s car”

Hitler being shown the Volkswagen on its launch. Next to him, in civilian clothes, is its designer, Ferdinand Porsche. I’ve often wondered if the photographer — behind Hitler focussing a Leica — might be Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer. Against that is the thought that although Hoffmann sometimes wore a military uniform, it seems unlikely that he was in the SS.

Quote of the Day

”Accuracy is a duty, not a virtue”

  • A.E. Housman

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Mark Knopfler | Miss You Blues



Long Read of the Day

Dinner with Queen Elizabeth

Unmissable 1996 New Yorker essay by Paul Theroux.

Subscriber slump may be bad news for Netflix, but better for the planet

Yesterday’s Observer column:

In the early 1930s, when Claud Cockburn worked on the Times, the subeditors had a competition to see who could compose the dullest headline. Cockburn claimed that he won with “Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead”. Alas, subsequent factcheckers have failed to unearth such a headline in the archives, but it came to mind last week when Netflix announced, in a quarterly earnings report, that for the first time in a decade it had lost subscribers – 200,000 of them, to be exact. In North America, it had lost 640,000 and suffered additional losses in every other region except for Asia-Pacific area, where it added a million.

This didn’t seem very interesting to this columnist, especially as it included the period when Netflix had pulled out of Russia, where it had 700,000 subscribers, which to my mind meant that the reported loss would have been a gain of half a million had Putin not invaded Ukraine.

Still, the negative 200,000 figure seemed to spook Wall Street. Netflix’s stock price collapsed by nearly 40% in two days, taking more than $50bn off the company’s market value in the blink of an eye…

Read on

Dave Winer on what a better Twitter could be

Dave (Whom God Preserve and whose birthday is today!) is one of the smartest software developers around. His ThinkTank outliner for the Apple Mac was one of the best programs I’ve ever used, and it hooked me on outliners for life. I once used it to write the first draft of an entire book.

But Dave is also one of the wise Elders of our online world. He’s a tireless campaigner for the open Web — which is why every word he’s ever written is available, for free, on his blog — even if has also been published inside some paywalled or corporate silo. I’ve followed his example: I’ve written a lot of stuff that has appeared behind paywalls and other enclosed spaces (like Substack), but it’s always also been available on Memex, hosted on my own server.

He is also a fierce critic of mainstream media, which he believes has still not properly adjusted to the possibilities of a networked world.

On Saturday, like everyone else, he was musing about Musk buying Twitter:

People often ask if when I talk about having our own TWTRs that means Mastodon. It could, if that’s your thing. But the center of this space will host all kinds of apps. Just like vehicles with wheels aren’t all Chevies and Hondas. Some are buses, trucks, Teslas or eBikes. There will be a lot of variety in the middle.

There was a time when all computers were basically the same. Big honkers in air conditioned rooms with raised floors. You had to have a degree to run one.

Then we got personal computers. Steve Jobs had a term for this. He called them “fractional horsepower” computers, to compare it to large mainframes.

I loved the idea of the Mac because it made the power of the mainframe usable by independent and free individuals. People who had ideas, and wanted to organize and share them…

ps: If you’re interested in Mastodon, see here.

My commonplace booklet

Joe Biden’s speech to the annual White House Correspondents dinner

Transcript is here. Some good jokes too. For example in the opening salvo:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, Steve, for that introduction. And a special thanks to the 42 percent of you who actually applauded. (Laughter.)

I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have. (Laughter.) That’s hard to say after what we just saw. (Laughter.)

This is the first time a President attended this dinner in six years. (Applause.) It’s understandable. We had a horrible plague followed by two years of COVID. (Laughter and applause.)

Just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year. Now, that would really have been a real coup if that occurred. (Laughter.) A little tough, huh? (Laughter.)

But I’m honored to be here at such an event with so much history…

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