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Ari Winkleman

The Graphic Truth: Twitter doesn't rule the social world

Elon Musk aside, does anybody else love Twitter? The platform’s 280-character tweets are an essential tool for governments, institutions, politicians, and journalists — as well as eccentric billionaires, of course — but in the grander scheme, not a lot of regular folks are hooked. We look at the brave — and scary — user numbers of social media, where not many care whether you RT’d or simply liked their thread.

Paige Fusco

Will Elon Musk have a China problem with Twitter?

Following news of Tesla CEO Elon Musk's plan to buy Twitter, one of the most bizarre and viral reactions came from … his Chinese doppelgänger.

“My man, my man. I love you,” said the self-proclaimed Yi Long Ma, who’s become an internet celebrity for his videos spoofing Musk on Douyin, the Chinese-language version of TikTok. The world’s richest man himself gave “Yi Long” a thumbs-up late last year, joking that perhaps he’s part-Chinese.

His lookalike in China is clearly excited about Musk owning the social media platform. But will the world's richest man’s ties to China hurt him and Twitter? There are two sides to that argument.

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Elon Musk's account seen through a Twitter logo.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Twitter's scent of Musk

The social media site has agreed to sell itself to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, for a mere $44 billion. Aside from the financial fireworks involved, there is a huge political angle to consider. Musk has criticized Twitter’s content moderation approach as a threat to free speech in what he calls “the digital town square.”

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Outsized Power of Big Tech Revealed in Russia-Ukraine War | Cyber In :60 | GZERO Media

Limiting Putin's propaganda: Big tech & the Russia-Ukraine war

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses the Ukraine conflict from the cybersecurity perspective:

If you're like me, you've been glued to the news all week after Russia invaded Ukraine to understand what is happening on the ground and how the democratic community is responding. We've seen tectonic changes already in this past week, and we could say the same for Big Tech.

How is the Russia-Ukraine war testing the role of Big Tech?

Well, I do think we see their outsized power revealed once more. We saw Putin restricting access to platforms like Facebook, as he is losing grip over his propaganda narrative. But then also social media companies finally being forced to stop amplifying state propaganda channels of Russian media in the EU, due to new sanctions. But the fact that the platforms are not doing the same in the US and other jurisdictions says a lot about their reluctance. And there's also a problem with executing their own corporate policies. New research shows that Facebook fails in 91% of cases to correctly label content when it is Russian state sponsored. It's very messy.

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Positive Changes Expected to Help Shift the US in 2022 | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

US in 2022: Smarter social media, more housing & living with COVID

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, discusses social media, US housing market, and learning to live with COVID-19:

What are three profound changes that you would foresee that will shift the nation in a good way?

Well, it's kind of hard to be optimistic when you spend too much time looking at US politics, but I'll give you three things I think would help. One, and that will help, one, Americans are going to get smarter about social media. A quiet storyline this year has been an ongoing investigation in Congress into the harm that can be caused by unfettered access to social media platforms. A whistleblower came forward with some evidence from some of the tech companies suggesting that too much time on social media can be harmful, particularly for teen girls. And I think parents are going to start to get smarter about this issue. There won't be legislation, and this will be a slow process. While unfettered 24-7 human contact has been great in many ways, it also has a dark side, and these kinds of congressional investigations will help give parents new tools to help deal with that.

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A person dressed as Uncle Sam attends an anti-mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine protest held outside New York City Hall in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 9, 2021.

What We’ll Keep Watching in 2022: The authoritarian plague, climate vs energy crisis, US politics in Georgia

COVID & authoritarianism. Around the world, the pandemic has given national governments vastly greater mandates to manage how their societies and economies work. That has, among other things, created room for authoritarianism to grow and flourish. But there are different views on how that’s happened, and where. On the one hand, undemocratic or illiberal governments used pandemic restrictions to suppress anti-government protests or muzzle critics. Think of China using COVID restrictions to stop the burgeoning Hong Kong protests, or Russia doing the same to crack down on opposition rallies. Freedom House reported this year that the pandemic had contributed to democratic backsliding in 73 countries, the most since 2005. But there are also those who see authoritarian shadows in what democratic governments have done: imposing vaccine mandates, continued lockdowns, and school closures. In the US, a backlash against this has boosted Republicans ahead of next year’s midterms, while fresh lockdowns and mandates have also provoked fierce protests in Europe. There is also the thorny and unresolved question of how to police misinformation. Some Americans think social media platforms are erring on the side of too much content moderation as they struggle with the difficult problem of weeding out dangerous pandemic fake news. Overall, the question of what governments did during the pandemic, and whether it exceeded their mandates, will affect politics and geopolitics deep into 2022.

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Is Donald Trump Returning to Social Media? | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

Is Donald Trump returning to social media?

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

A Trump media platform? Is this for real?

This week, President Trump announced his potential return to social media through the creation of his own digital media platform that's going to merge with an existing publicly-traded company in a deal known as a SPAC. These deals are increasingly popular for getting access to capital, and it seems like that's where President Trump is headed.

The publicly-traded company's stock was up on the news, but it's really hard to see this coming together. The Trump media company claims it wants to go up against not only Facebook and Twitter, but companies like Amazon and cloud computing and even Disney providing a safe space for conservatives to share their points of view. The fact of the matter is, conservatives do quite well on existing social media platforms when they aren't being kicked off for violating the terms of service, and other conservative social media platforms that have attempted to launch this year haven't really gone off the ground.

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Social Media’s Responsibility in American Politics | GZERO World

Social media’s responsibility in American politics

Former US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes argues that one of the biggest issues in American political discourse at the moment is the lack of regulation on social media platforms. Americans believe fake news, not because they are all crazy, but because this information is being effectively presented to them as though it is fact. Biden should work with Big Tech to regulate social media, Rhodes tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, because the situation is worsening. "Part of what's different is the way in which social media and technology has literally made it possible for a very large chunk of this country to live in an alternative reality."

Watch the episode: Is American democracy in danger?

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