You may not like that Twitter is now called X and seems less relevant or even less safe than it did before, but at least according to X CEO Linda Yaccarino, you'll have the ability to video chat with friends on the service without sharing phone numbers. So there's that.
Yacarrino shared this upcoming feature news during a wide-ranging CNBC interview (simulcast on X's Spaces) this week in which she called the platform safer than it was a year ago, defended Elon Musk and his off-the-cuff tweeting (or X-ing), and appeared ready to welcome and watch the reinstituted rapper Kanye West when he decides to return to the platform.
While not providing any details on how video chat might work on the former Twitter, Yaccarino used the feature enhancement to illustrate how rebranding the service X has been a "liberation from Twitter" and let's them "evolve past a legacy mindset."
, claiming it's angrier and more troll-filled than before, but Yaccarino believes X is in a better place and highlighted new policies that she thinks foster more freedom of speech on X.
Linda Yaccarino: "By all objective metrics, X is a much healthier and safer platform than it was a year ago." (This is a lie.) pic.twitter.com/MxMFb8ReNgAugust 10, 2023
"We've built a policy here called freedom of speech not reach," she told CNBC. "Post something that's illegal or against the law, you're gone, zero tolerance. But more importantly, if you're gonna post something that is lawful but awful, you get labeled, you get de-amplified, which means it cannot be shared and it is certainly demonetized."
What she failed to explain, though is how Twit...er...X identifies and defines what is awful but lawful. Who is the arbiter, is it X's moderators, is it the Community Notes team? More importantly, her argument fails to acknowledge that some people on Twitter like Kanye West and, especially, Elon Musk, don't need Twitter's help when it comes to reach. With millions of followers, tens of millions of people instantly see everything they tweet.
Why do they potentially tweet something awful (but lawful)? The motivating force for people tweeting what's on their mind may have little to do with facts or even how they perceive them and instead appears wrapped up in their desire for an audience and that audience's reaction.
For Musk, the reactions to his latest incendiary tweets are fuel. It feeds him and he'll usually double down. No labeling or deamplification system can get ahead of that.
The influence equation
The flaw in X's plan is really one that persists across social media and it speaks to influence. Build a big enough audience and, because they like, love, trust or adore you, you can sway thoughts and opinions. No one wants to disagree with someone they admire, let alone question their reasoning. The size of any audience is in direct proportion to the scale of influence and, ultimately responsibility. However, few on social media understand that and seem blithely unaware of their impact.
We have few better examples than the recent mass riot in New York City's Union Square sparked by Twitch star Kai Cenat, who casually announced he was giving away PlayStation 5's in the mid-town square without preparing the park officials, local police, or anyone for that matter. Millions follow Cenat on his Twitch stream and yet it apparently never occurred to him how his message would mobilize thousands of teenagers.
Musk is so laser-focused on "free speech" that he is equally blind to his own influence—or maybe he's not and simply loves any and all reactions that he can trigger, at scale, with one tweet.
It's all about him
Yaccarino downplays Elon's toxic posts: "The platform is not about a particular person's tweets." pic.twitter.com/OObdj7ZtSAAugust 10, 2023
Elon Musk spent almost two decades building a personal brand revolving around innovation in space, energy, and electric cars. He was on Twitter (on and off and on again, actually) for more than a decade usually sharing thoughts about the nitty gritty details of space and electric car technology and manufacturing. It was, if I'm being honest, usually pretty interesting. I especially liked when Musk directly answered technical questions. It was Twitter and Elon at their best.
However, when Musk ventured outside technology and innovation, his audience on Twitter grew and, instead of taking that as a signal that perhaps he should take more care with his social presence, Musk leaned into it and became increasingly reckless. His goal appeared to be total Twitter domination, starting with the number of followers he could gather and culminating in acquiring Twitter so he could become the most-followed and important person on Twitter.
Yaccarino insisted that Twitter is not about one particular person's Tweets but Musk proves time and time again that he believes the platform is or should be all about him. X's weaksauce policies won't stop or reform Musk, nor do they make Twitter as safe as she claims. More importantly, a handful of features that aim to reinvent Twitter won't save X and do nothing to solve its Musk problem.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.