Since the purchase of 9.2% of shares, Elon Musk made clear his interest in making changes to Twitter. The CEO of Tesla has proposed an infinity of adjustments in the social network that range from the button to edit tweets, authenticate all users, or make his algorithm open source. Alex Roetter, former director of engineering at Twitter believes that many of these ideas make sense if executed well.
Roetter was interviewed by journalist Alex Kantrowitz on the Big Technology podcast, where he gave his take on this topic. The Twitter’s former director of engineering was optimistic about Elon Musk’s proposals. While most are doable, the only change that he is hesitant about is the openness of the algorithm.
One of Elon Musk’s first proposals was to implement a button to edit tweets, which was taken up by the company days later. Although the edit button could be exploited to harass or scam, Alex Roetter is shown in favor of your arrival. “I don’t think it’s going to change any of the main things that everyone is upset about,” she said.
The ex-engineer is also convinced that authenticating all humans is a feasible and recommended idea. Elon Musk mentioned his intention to verify users on the platform, something that would serve to combat the main problems of the platform. “Anonymity encourages the worst parts of speech online,” Roetter said. A verification via email or SMS would help reduce harassment.
Elon Musk has good ideas, but it will not be easy to implement the changes on Twitter
Another way to improve the platform is fight spam. This is an area that Twitter hasn’t paid much attention to, probably because verifying accounts would lose a significant portion of its user base. That doesn’t interest Elon Musk, who has declared war on spam bots and said he will defeat them (or die trying).
Regarding this, Roetter thinks that although it is a good idea, it is not so easy to implement it. To get rid of bots it is necessary to develop a classifier that can analyze their characteristics and ban them. The problem is that a classifier not 100% accurate and could remove real user accounts in the cleaning process. Elon Musk and company will have to work on a solution that gets rid of the bots without affecting third parties as much.
The two most complex points for the ex-director of Twitter have to do with the freedom of expression and the opening of the algorithm. The first is the flag of Elon Musk in his quest to acquire Twitter. The tycoon, who defines himself as an “absolutist of freedom of expression” does not trust the current moderation of Twitter and has mocked the main person responsible for it.
According to Roetter, Elon Musk’s vision presents some technical challenges and he doesn’t think there will be an answer that makes everyone happy. The first step would be relax current moderation policies and analyze how things develop. With a verification system and ban of bots, Hate speech and harassment are likely to decrease, so the impact would be less if Elon changes the rules.
Releasing the code of the Twitter algorithm is not as easy as it seems
Opening the algorithm code for everyone is something else. Alex Roetter states that algorithms analyze billions of examples of content and try to predict how we will react to tweets and ads. The algorithms themselves don’t say much, according to the former employee. Twitter uses machine learning to guide the decisions of its users and understand these models it’s not as easy as downloading them from a GitHub repository.
Elon Musk’s idea is that we could all contribute to improving the Twitter algorithm if we have access to it. The problem is that there is no single algorithm and this has been shared Steve Teixeira, vice president of product at the company.
When people say that Twitter should “open source the algorithm,” what do they hope to accomplish by doing so? And what algorithm? The main feed? The chronological feed? Advertisements? Trends? Discovery? Others?
Alex Roetter believes that making these algorithms open source may be feasible and advisable, but only would help in specific cases, such as fighting conspiracy theorists.