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Governance December 19, 2022

Elon Musk Losing Poll on his Future as Twitter CEO



Elon Musk Losing Poll on his Future as Twitter CEO

Elon Musk launched a poll on Sunday asking users whether he should quit as Twitter CEO. It follows a decision by the company earlier in the day to ban tweets promoting rival social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, which Musk reversed a few hours later.

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The billionaire said he would “abide by the results of this poll.” As of writing, 14.3 million Twitter users had taken part in the poll with 57% voting in favor of him stepping down. There is about three hours left before the poll closes later today, Dec. 19.

Musk did not give details of when he would leave his position should the vote go against him. Elon Musk took over as CEO in October after paying $44 billion to purchase the social media firm. However, his short reign has been marred by issues of alleged policy inconsistency, abuse of power and impromptu employee sackings.

No more free promos of Facebook and others

The poll follows a change to Twitter’s “promotion of alternative social platforms policy” on Sunday.

Twitter said it will specifically “remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms.” Content that contains links or usernames for rival social media firms including Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post, is banned.

Twitter threatened to delete tweets from accounts that violated its new policy. It also said accounts may be temporarily locked or permanently suspended.

Critics described Twitter’s decision to ban mentions of competitors on its platform as an attack on free speech. Elon Musk’s acquisition of the giant social media company has been framed in this way, as a victory for freedom of speech.

“This is incredibly shortsighted,” shouted Justin Amash, libertarian and former U.S. member of Congress. “Twitter should strive to be a more open environment, not less open.”

Journalist Ashton Pittman pulled up a screenshot of an old  tweet by Elon Musk. In the tweet, the billionaire explained that only a “bad socio-economic system” would build a wall to keep a rival at bay. Pittman pointed to the irony in that Twitter, championed by Musk as the citadel of free speech, is now behaving like the “bad” competitor.

Elon Musk Losing Poll To Decide Future as Twitter CEO After Twitter’s Bungled Ban of Rivals

Twitter may be kicked out of the EU

‘”This [Twitter rivals ban] most certainly goes against EU regulations though. It will either be reversed or Twitter will be fined heavily in Europe or kicked out,” explained Maynard Manyowa, a Zimbabwean journalist based in the United Kingdom.

The European Union’s (EU) Digital Markets Act “aims to ensure that large online platforms [also referred to as gatekeepers] behave in a fair way online.”

The Act demands that firms such as Twitter do not treat their own “services and products more favorably in ranking than similar services or products offered by third parties on the gatekeeper’s platform.” It also says that big social media companies may no longer “prevent consumers from linking up to businesses outside their platforms.”

No successor

Elon Musk later reversed the policy update. He then launched the poll and apologized. “Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. Won’t happen again,” he said in tweet. However, he also revealed that “there was no successor” to run the company as CEO after him.

Twitter’s official account later started a separate poll asking users if the social network should have a policy stopping accounts from advertising competing social media platforms on Twitter.

Jack Dorsey donates to Twitter rival Nostr

Social media firms have been politically weaponized in the service of American interests, according to observers.

In a recent investigative article, The Intercept detailed how the U.S. government is secretly working with leading tech companies to monitor and moderate content. The firms include Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Wikipedia, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Verizon Media. The plan is to filter out content the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers “dangerous speech”.

Now other emerging decentralized social media networks are betting on taking back control of individual privacy and freedom of speech. They intend to phase out compliant, centralized firms as the de facto medium of online social interaction.

On Dec. 16, Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey donated 14 Bitcoin worth about $240,000 to Nostr Protocol, a new decentralzed social network that challenges Twitter directly. Twitter banned the protocol.

According to a Github post by developers Git-sgmoore and Fiatjaf, Nostr is an “open protocol that is able to create a censorship-resistant global ‘social’ network once and for all.”

“It doesn’t rely on any trusted central server, hence it is resilient; it is based on cryptographic keys and signatures, so it is tamperproof; it does not rely on P2P techniques, therefore it works,” they said.

Dorsey has since added his Nostro public key to his bio on Twitter. It is not clear whether this constitutes a violation of Twitter’s new policy on alternative social media platforms.

Nostr is one among a number of emerging decentralized social networks intent on giving users both the personal and financial freedom to act according to their conscience rather than under political instruction.

Right side of history

Jack Dorsey recently expressed disappointment with issues of content moderation at Twitter and how this had curtailed free speech. “The Twitter when I led it and the Twitter of today do not meet any” of the principles of resisting “corporate and government control,” he said a blog post.

It is perhaps not surprising that he has set his eyes on building truly independent platforms. The Twitter billionaire founder is also backing Bluesky, a new decentralized social media protocol.

Bluesky is building the AT Protocol, a foundation for social networking which frees developers from corporate and government control. Large-scale distributed social applications can be built using the protocol.

It aims to come up with a protocol that grants users portability, scale, and trust, it says. Portability allows users to switch between apps without losing their data; scale, allows apps to handle more traffic and then trust, preventing algorithms from profiling users.

Dorsey is planning to spend millions of dollars in donations to other emerging privacy-focused protocols.

Over the years, key figures in Bitcoin and web3, entities predominantly on the receiving end of U.S. government intrusion, have either disapprovingly reassessed the monopoly of dominant social networks or started to delink their relationships.

The loss of confidence is symptomatic of the political entanglements of entrenched social platforms like Facebook or Google. This places decentralized crypto assets like Bitcoin and, by extension, decentralized social networks on the right side of history.


Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.


Could ChatGPT Be Used to Lobby on Behalf of Corporations?



Chatbots could lobby government

Large language models (LLM) such as ChatGPT have the potential to shake up political lobbying according to research conducted at one of the top US Universities.

An investigation by John Nay of Stanford University posits that at least part of the lobbying work from corporate interests can be automated. Nay argues that this development could be good news for politics, but also warms that there are inherent dangers. Chatbot technology could even be leveraged to undermine the integrity of political institutions and the legislative process.

Lobbying for policy change

A recent paper by John Nay of Stanford University titled Large Language Models as Corporate Lobbyists suggests that chatbots such as ChatGPT have the potential to become competent political lobbyists.

To test the theory Nay prompted ChatGPT to complete a set number of diverse tasks necessary for a functioning lobbying process.

Nay first asked the system to determine whether proposed US Congressional bills are relevant to specific companies. The chatbot was further asked to provide reasons for its assessment of the legislation and to offer confidence levels in its own analysis.

For the bills ChatGPT considered relevant, the bot was then asked to draft a lobbying letter to the bill’s sponsor and to ask for changes to the proposed legislation.

The research, which was published earlier this month, found that while ChatGPT is still some way from being able to fully replace the lobbying efforts of a human being that this situation may change in the future.

The report went on to say that “as large language models continue to exhibit improved natural language understanding capabilities, performance on corporate lobbying related tasks will continue to improve.”

According to Nay the benefits of AI as lobbyists are twofold. One is that it allows humans to spend less time on mundane tasks freeing them to focus on challenges at a higher level. The second is that it makes lobbying easier and more affordable, opening the practice to a wider number of potential players.

Could ChatGPT negotiate on your behalf?

Nay argues that ChatGPT could negotiate on behalf of the little guy and there is something fairly compelling about this pitch. 

On the other hand, ChatGPT and other chatbots could instead be leveraged by large corporations and other well-resourced players to further extend their advantage in the political sphere. 

Rather than improving our democracies, chatbots could instead flood them with a wave of increased corporate lobbying, eroding the relative power of ordinary people.

Besides lobbying directly on bills, chatbots could be further utilized to lobby individual politicians, write email campaigns, or game social media sites by spamming them with automated chatbot political campaigns.

In credit, Nay is not blind to the potential dangers of utilizing technology in this fashion.

As the research admits, “there may be a slow creep of less and less human oversight over automated assessments of policy ideas and the written communication to regulatory agencies and Congressional staffers. The core question raised is where to draw the line between human-driven and AI-driven policy influence.”

As AI chatbots continue to improve the question of where we draw the line may become fairly moot. Once artificial intelligence and human-led responses become indistinguishable, how can a line be drawn at all?

That’s a problem that currently holds no solution. When legislators don’t know what is composed by humans and what is written by AI, there is simply no practical way that humans can keep chatbots out of the political process. 

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Twitter Probed Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks



DPC Probes Twitter Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks

Twitter is being probed over personal data protection after a hacker claimed to have details of more than 400 million users.

Identified as “Ryushi”, the hacker is demanding $200 000 or £166 000 to hand over the data and delete it. The details include that of some celebrities.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) says it will look into Twitter’s compliance with data protection law in relation to that security issue.

The watchdog launched an own-volition enquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act of 2018 following multiple media reports showing one or more collated datasets of Twitter user personal data had been made available on the internet.

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The DPC is an Irish supervisory authority responsible for upholding fundamental rights of individuals in the EU to have their personal data protected.

Twitter’s European headquarters are based in Dublin, therefore, the DPC is the lead authority supervising its compliance with EU data protection rules.

High profile Twitter users’ data at risk

Although the size of the haul is not confirmed, reports say the data includes phone numbers and email addresses including those of celebrities and politicians.

The Guardian reported US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s data was included in the sample published by the hacker.

“The datasets were reported to map Twitter IDs to email addresses and or telephone numbers of associated data subjects,” said DPC.

“The DPC corresponded with Twitter International Company in relation to a notified personal data breach that TIC Claims to be the source vulnerability used to generate the datasets and raised queries in relation to DGPR compliance,” adds DPC.

Twitter Probed Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks

Twitter mute over the claim

Twitter has not issued an official statement on enquiries about the personal data leaks.

But responding to a tweet by cyber-security reporter Brian Krebs over the breach, Twitter chief executive officer Elon Musk said: “Don’t be the clown on the clown car!”

Krebs however notes the breach probably occurred before Musk took over as Twitter CEO.

Cyber-crime intelligence company Hudson Rock says it was the first to raise the alarm about the personal data sale.

The firm’s chief technology officer Alon Gal told the BBC there were a number of clues that appeared to support the hacker’s claim, although agreeing the amount of data had not been verified.

However, Gal said it seemed the data was not copied from an earlier breach in which details were published from 5.4 million accounts

According to Gal, only 60 emails of the sample 1 000 provided by the hacker in the earlier incident appeared and was confident that this breach “is different and significantly bigger.”

“The hacker aims to sell the database through an escrow service that is offered on a cyber-crime forum. Typically, this is only done for real offerings,” he said.

An escrow service is a third party that agrees to release funds only when certain conditions such as handing over data are met.

Worrisome trend

Concerns have been raised over personal data protection at a time the world is increasingly becoming digital.

Knowing how damaging the loss of data can be to the platform, the hacker has warned Twitter that its best chance of avoiding a large data-protection fine is to buy the data “exclusively.”

“Ryushi” highlighted they exploited a problem with a system that lets computer programmes connect with Twitter to compile the data.

Although Twitter fixed the problem in the system, it is believed the weakness was used in an earlier breach which affected more than 5 million accounts.

Last year, a hacking forum published phone numbers and personal data of hundreds of millions of Facebook users online for free.

The data included personal information of 533 million users from 106 countries including over 32 million records on users in the US, 11 million in the UK and 6 million users in India exposing their phone numbers, full names, locations, bios, birthdates and in some cases their email addresses.

Its parent company – Meta was fined $276 million over the data breach.

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Spain Funnels Millions From EU to Metaverse Experiences



Spain Funnels Millions From EU to Metaverse Experiences

Spain’s Ministry of Culture and Sports will direct EU grant money to invest €8 million ($8.5 million) in developing video games and the metaverse.

Spain’s “Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience Plan” is a program of investments designed to incubate and accelerate digital projects, and to extend to narrative experiences within the metaverse itself.

The resilience plan is part of a host of similar packages across the EU that are designed to help European industries recover from the colossal self-harm of travel lockdowns and restrictions on free movement.

Big metaverse spending

The Spanish government is investing big in video games and the metaverse with the aim of boosting the sector in the longer term. The Ministry of Culture hopes that this forward-facing strategy will place the industry in a globally competitive position. 

The latest funding round is 700% larger than the first, marking an acceleration of the project that has already helped 25 beneficiary organizations including many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  

According to Miquel Iceta, the Minister for Culture and Sports, the aid provided, “will contribute to promoting the projects of our SMEs and the self-employed, thus consolidating the image of Spain as a benchmark audiovisual hub, also in the videogame sector.”

The minister added, “we want to turn Spain into an exporter of audiovisual products, placing the video game sector in a competitive situation compared to other countries.” 

The Spanish official states that the government views the video game sector as one of the key industries of the 21st century. Spain’s role within this key industry will not, therefore, be taken lightly.

As part of the overall scheme video games and the metaverse will be considered culturally important. The National Library of Spain will take responsibility for conserving these creations as part of Spanish culture and heritage, preserved for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Spain loves video game technology

Video game technology is already strongly embedded in Spanish culture. In 2021, 6.9 million video games were sold in the country, with sales of 1 million consoles and 3.4 million accessories.

Almost 15% of the country is already playing video games of some variety every month, positioning it in the top ten list of gaming countries by demand. The government hopes to leverage this interest into a competitive edge in the longer term.

Although not all metaverse experiences are expected to be so closely linked to the video game and entertainment sectors, trailblazers such as Fortnite and Roblox make a strong case for the virtual world as a leisure space. The Spanish government will now hope that additional funding will help Spanish SMEs to gain a toehold in this highly competitive space.

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