Elon Musk says xAI is launching its first model and it could be a ChatGPT rival

Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence startup company, xAI, will debut its first long-awaited AI model on Saturday, November 4.

The billionaire made the announcement on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) stating the tech will be released to a “select group” of people. He even boasts that “in some important respects, it is the best that currently exists.”

It’s been a while since we’ve last heard anything from xAI. The startup hit the scene back in July, revealing it’s run by a team of former engineers from Microsoft, Google, and even OpenAI. Shortly after the debut on July 14, Musk held a 90-minute-long Twitter Spaces chat where he talked about his vision for the company. During the chat, Musk stated his startup will seek to create “a good AGI with the overarching purpose of just trying to understand the universe”. He wants it to run contrary to what he believes is problematic tech from the likes of Microsoft and Google. 

Yet another chatbot

AGI stands for artificial general intelligence, and it’s the concept of an AI having “intelligence” comparable to or beyond that of a normal human being. The problem is that it's more of an idea of what AI could be rather than a literal piece of technology. Even Wired in their coverage of AGIs states there’s “no concrete definition of the term”.

So does this mean xAI will reveal some kind of super-smart model that will help humanity as well as be able to hold conversations like a sci-fi movie? No, but that could be the lofty end goal for Elon Musk and his team. We believe all we’ll see on November 5 is a simple chatbot like ChatGPT. Let’s call it “ChatX” since the billionaire has an obsession with the letter “X”.  

Does “ChatX” even stand a chance against the likes of Google Bard or ChatGPT? The latter has been around for almost a year now and has seen multiple updates becoming more refined each time. Maybe xAI has solved the hallucination problem. That'll be great to see. Unfortunately, it's possible ChatX could just be another vehicle for Musk to spread his ideas/beliefs.

Analysis: A personal truth spinner

Musk has talked about wanting to have an alternative to ChatGPT that focuses on providing the “truth”, whatever that means. Musk has been a vocal critic of how fast companies have been developing their own generative AI models with seemingly reckless abandon. He even called for a six-month pause on AI training in March. Obviously, that didn’t happen as the technology advanced by leaps and bounds since then.

It's worth mentioning that Twitter, under Musk's management, has been known to comply with censorship requests by governments from around the world, so Musk's definition of truth seems dubious at best. Either way, we’ll know soon enough what the team's intentions are. Just don’t get your hopes up.

While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best AI writers for 2023.

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Elon Musk launches xAI startup to, naturally, understand the universe

Billionaire Elon Musk is entering the world of AI – again – as he officially reveals his latest tech business venture,  xAI, which aims to “understand the true nature of the universe.”

Details on what exactly xAI will bring to the industry are unknown at this time. The official website is pretty vague, but we won’t have to wait long to learn more. The company is planning to hold a Twitter Spaces chat this Friday, July 14 where people can join and ask the team questions (hopefully, no one rage quits this time). 

However, there are several clues on the official website indicating the future product or service could be related to generative AI in some way. Looking at the website’s description, the team is stacked with former engineers from major tech companies like Microsoft, Google, OpenAI, as well as Tesla. The work of these experts has led to “some of the largest breakthroughs” and learning techniques in AI. This research has even led to the development of notable LLMs (large language models) like GPT-4.

Fighting misinformation

You may be wondering, “Why is Musk doing this?”

Well, it appears Elon Musk ultimately wants to make his own generative AI with a potentially large emphasis on safety. Since the ChatGPT launch back in November 2022, Musk has been a vocal critic of it and the developer, OpenAI, as well as other similar systems. It’s to the point where, back in late March 2023, Musk, alongside other tech figures, cosigned a letter asking all AI labs across the world to pause training AI models “for at least six months”. The letter urged developers to slow down and implement “safety protocols” to curb misinformation

It is true chatbots do sometimes generate false information. Developers of these systems are trying to figure out a way to combat hallucinations

And we believe that is what Elon Musk is getting at with xAI. He wants a chatbot that doesn’t falsify responses. Musk is even bringing in Dan Hendrycks, the director of the Center for AI Safety, a nonprofit organization that recently published an open letter asking tech leaders to mitigate the “risk of extinction from AI.” Yes, they are talking about literal human extinction as if this is a Terminator movie.

Analysis: Who does this benefit?

What’s in all this for you? Honestly, we don’t know. Sure, you can argue Musk's potential xAI chatbot could be better than ChatGPT or Google Bard because it has special technology to ensure it doesn’t lie. If this were in the hands of anyone else, we would sincerely believe that. But, under Musk’s reign, Twitter has, among other questionable actions, complied with government censorship demands and banned the ElonJet account for posting publicly available data. 

Is factual information really a major concern for the controversial CEO? Musk's actions say otherwise. It’s questionable if such an AI chatbot will even provide truthful answers. Perhaps they'll just be Elon Musk's version of the truth.

Co-founder Greg Yang states the company aims to develop a “theory of everything” enabling “everyone to understand our mathematical universe.” So if you need help with your Philosophy 101 homework, you have the xAI chatbot. 

All jokes aside, it will be interesting to see what comes out of the Twitter Spaces chat on July 14. A generative AI that provides 100 percent accurate information is something the world needs right now. Misinformation is a major problem afflicting many aspects of the world. We just wonder if Elon Musk is the right person to develop it.

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Twitter’s latest meltdown proves Elon Musk is still doing it wrong

Twitter thrives on shares, not just within the social media platform but from partner links all over the Internet. Except on Monday, most of those links stopped working.

For approximately an hour, anyone trying to share recently published articles on Twitter was met with an error message clearly intended for developers:

Twitter API bug

(Image credit: Future)

It was almost as if Twitter was informing publishers that they didn't pay their water bill and, as such, couldn't publish links on the social network.

What went wrong?

We didn't have to wait too long for Twitter CEO Elon Musk to explain. In response to a tweet from former Netscape founder and well-known venture capitalist Marc Andreessen pointing out how four of the five top Twitter trends were about Twitter, Musk tweeted, “A small API change had massive ramifications. The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason. Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.”

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This seemingly clear-headed tweet though should be cause for alarm. Musk claims the code stack (basically a massive stack of programs that all work together to create the Twitter whole) is brittle and needs a rewrite. What he fails to mention is that among the thousands of Twitter employees he laid off since November, a good number of them were engineers and, it's safe to assume, some were in what's known as QA or quality assurance.

Typically if you plan on making any kind of code change to a website, online service, or app, QA tests it on an offline copy of the platform. In this way, they ensure that the updates, no matter how small, won't adversely impact the live environment.

The concept is known as “production,” the live site or service, versus “staging,” an environment that's identical to live but can not be seen or touched by users. You run your new code or feature through staging, a group of QA testers applies a set of known scenarios (maybe they throw in an edge case or two) and as long as there are no red flags, the update gets pushed from Staging to Production. 

Twitter, which has seen its overall reliability drop (from going offline to having features appear and disappear unexpectedly) since Musk took over, may be getting its updates in a different way.

Musk likes to test features on production (the live site). As a result, he keeps running into unintended consequences.

There is some disagreement on whether or not there is a Twitter QA team.

Some argue one exists but Musk grows impatient and then pushes untested code live.

Others insist that Elon Musk arrived at Twitter and discovered that Twitter had no QA team and it was long in the practice of pushing untested code live. That though seems highly unlikely. 

I asked Musk directly on Twitter if the API update was tested on staging before being pushed live and will update this post if he responds.

Never assume

The assumption he made here, that a small API change would have little impact on the site was a poor one. And, yet, Musk still doesn't understand that he's doing it wrong.

Testing features of any kind on a live version of a complex platform like Twitter will inevitably result in bugs and crashes.

Will rewriting the code stack solve all this? Maybe, but very few platforms stay as clean as they were on launch and even if the rewrite is robust and perfect, frequent updates and fresh features will test that stability.

As long as Musk refuses to fully test what he launches before he launches it, there is no scenario in which Twitter escapes regular downtime.

This is a simple fix, Elon, make QA an inescapable part of the development pipeline and save yourself and us a lot of headaches. Or keep doing it your way because that's working out so, so well.

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Twitter board approves ‘poison pill’ provision to ward off Elon Musk takeover

Twitter has just adopted a poison pill defense against a potential hostile takeover bid from Elon Musk, who recently made a $ 43 billion offer to buy 100% of the company's stock.

The plan, which was unanimously approved by Twitter's board of directors, is designed to make it far more difficult to purchase more than 15% of the company's stock according to the press release Twitter published announcing the move.

So-called poison pills provisions (also known as shareholder-rights plans) are legally designed to make it prohibitively expensive for any one shareholder to accumulate more than a set percentage of a company's stock.

“The Rights Plan is intended to enable all shareholders to realize the full value of their investment in Twitter,” the company said. “The Rights Plan will reduce the likelihood that any entity, person, or group gains control of Twitter through open market accumulation without paying all shareholders an appropriate control premium or without providing the Board sufficient time to make informed judgments and take actions that are in the best interests of shareholders.”

The plan is triggered when any shareholder tries to acquire 15% or more of the company's outstanding stock shares without the approval of the company's board of directors. If such an attempt is made, then the current shareholders would have the option of buying additional shares at a discounted price and the entity triggering the plan would have to buy any additional shares beyond the 15% threshold at a premium.

Musk offered to pay $ 54.20 a share in his unsolicited takeover offer with the stated intention of taking the company private if his offer was accepted. Musk has been an outspoken critic of the way Twitter has been run, so a takeover by Musk would almost certainly make substantial changes to the popular social media platform. 


Opinion: Elon Musk buying Twitter would be an absolute disaster

Currently, the debate over “free speech” on Twitter is more or less locked into a stalemate, with every side claiming that they are being censored by the company. To be clear, Twitter is a private enterprise, not a government entity. The company is free to set its own policies that users must agree to in order to use the platform, so long as it complies with applicable laws.

There is no law saying you can't be banned from Twitter for what you post on the platform, and it is left to the company to decide what posts violate their terms of use. Whether that is how it should be is a different matter, but for now, that is how it is, and this is what is apparently upsetting Musk, who has criticized the company for censoring users.

See more

Considering the often toxic interactions users can experience on Twitter (and the internet more broadly), lifting all restrictions on what users can post wouldn't lead to a flourishing of positive, constructive debate. We've run this experiment already, we know the outcome. 

The internet isn't the liberating, free-speech frontier that early web pioneers like Musk believe that it should or could be if it were just unshackled from some Big Brother authority, whether government or corporate. It has proven itself to be a brutal, digital colosseum where the most socially vulnerable users are fed to the lions for the cynical thrill of a small subset of its users who, like parodies of The Joker, claim to want to watch the world burn but who are really only interested in burning their perceived enemies at the stake from the safety of internet anonymity.

See more

Like all social media companies, Twitter has a complicated track record in this regard, but it is also one of the most responsive to these challenges. Pretending that these challenges can be overcome by individual users through gumption or growing thicker skin is easy for someone like Musk, who generally basks in the sycophantic adoration of his fans. He's among the richest handful of people in the world, and nothing insolates you from the devastating emotional effects of online harassment like money.

Musk wants to be liberated from the restrictions Twitter places on its users, because of course he does. No one that rich ever wants someone to tell them what they can and cannot do, but those rules aren't in place to protect people like Musk. They're there to protect the rest of us, and especially women; ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities; and other vulnerable people who have already been irreparably harmed by the free-for-all of online social media mobs with the current restrictions in place.

Holding a town hall to discuss the important matters of the day can't happen if there is someone in the crowd shouting obscenities, racial slurs, and making threats against everyone around them. If Musk took over Twitter with the intention of preventing “censorship”, it would be the end of Twitter.

It's already walking a tightrope between being a contentious public forum and a hellsite. The only people Musk would liberate would be the trolls, and the mass exodus from the platform would be almost instantaneous, triggering a fatal cycle of us normies bailing for other platforms, which simply makes the voices of the trolls that much louder, forcing even more people off the platform. Then there's the Twitter employees themselves, who would likely leave in droves, driving the quality of the site into a tailspin, further eroding its user base. 

If Musk's goal is to destroy Twitter, I can't think of a better way for him to do it.

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Twitter board approves ‘poison pill’ provision to ward off Elon Musk takeover

Twitter has just adopted a poison pill defense against a potential hostile takeover bid from Elon Musk, who recently made a $ 43 billion offer to buy 100% of the company's stock.

The plan, which was unanimously approved by Twitter's board of directors, is designed to make it far more difficult to purchase more than 15% of the company's stock according to the press release Twitter published announcing the move.

So-called poison pills provisions (also known as shareholder-rights plans) are legally designed to make it prohibitively expensive for any one shareholder to accumulate more than a set percentage of a company's stock.

“The Rights Plan is intended to enable all shareholders to realize the full value of their investment in Twitter,” the company said. “The Rights Plan will reduce the likelihood that any entity, person, or group gains control of Twitter through open market accumulation without paying all shareholders an appropriate control premium or without providing the Board sufficient time to make informed judgments and take actions that are in the best interests of shareholders.”

The plan is triggered when any shareholder tries to acquire 15% or more of the company's outstanding stock shares without the approval of the company's board of directors. If such an attempt is made, then the current shareholders would have the option of buying additional shares at a discounted price and the entity triggering the plan would have to buy any additional shares beyond the 15% threshold at a premium.

Musk offered to pay $ 54.20 a share in his unsolicited takeover offer with the stated intention of taking the company private if his offer was accepted. Musk has been an outspoken critic of the way Twitter has been run, so a takeover by Musk would almost certainly make substantial changes to the popular social media platform. 


Opinion: Elon Musk buying Twitter would be an absolute disaster

Currently, the debate over “free speech” on Twitter is more or less locked into a stalemate, with every side claiming that they are being censored by the company. To be clear, Twitter is a private enterprise, not a government entity. The company is free to set its own policies that users must agree to in order to use the platform, so long as it complies with applicable laws.

There is no law saying you can't be banned from Twitter for what you post on the platform, and it is left to the company to decide what posts violate their terms of use. Whether that is how it should be is a different matter, but for now, that is how it is, and this is what is apparently upsetting Musk, who has criticized the company for censoring users.

See more

Considering the often toxic interactions users can experience on Twitter (and the internet more broadly), lifting all restrictions on what users can post wouldn't lead to a flourishing of positive, constructive debate. We've run this experiment already, we know the outcome. 

The internet isn't the liberating, free-speech frontier that early web pioneers like Musk believe that it should or could be if it were just unshackled from some Big Brother authority, whether government or corporate. It has proven itself to be a brutal, digital colosseum where the most socially vulnerable users are fed to the lions for the cynical thrill of a small subset of its users who, like parodies of The Joker, claim to want to watch the world burn but who are really only interested in burning their perceived enemies at the stake from the safety of internet anonymity.

See more

Like all social media companies, Twitter has a complicated track record in this regard, but it is also one of the most responsive to these challenges. Pretending that these challenges can be overcome by individual users through gumption or growing thicker skin is easy for someone like Musk, who generally basks in the sycophantic adoration of his fans. He's among the richest handful of people in the world, and nothing insolates you from the devastating emotional effects of online harassment like money.

Musk wants to be liberated from the restrictions Twitter places on its users, because of course he does. No one that rich ever wants someone to tell them what they can and cannot do, but those rules aren't in place to protect people like Musk. They're there to protect the rest of us, and especially women; ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities; and other vulnerable people who have already been irreparably harmed by the free-for-all of online social media mobs with the current restrictions in place.

Holding a town hall to discuss the important matters of the day can't happen if there is someone in the crowd shouting obscenities, racial slurs, and making threats against everyone around them. If Musk took over Twitter with the intention of preventing “censorship”, it would be the end of Twitter.

It's already walking a tightrope between being a contentious public forum and a hellsite. The only people Musk would liberate would be the trolls, and the mass exodus from the platform would be almost instantaneous, triggering a fatal cycle of us normies bailing for other platforms, which simply makes the voices of the trolls that much louder, forcing even more people off the platform. Then there's the Twitter employees themselves, who would likely leave in droves, driving the quality of the site into a tailspin, further eroding its user base. 

If Musk's goal is to destroy Twitter, I can't think of a better way for him to do it.

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Elon Musk owning Twitter is a terrible idea – and he probably knows it

Why does Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?

It's the question everyone is asking Thursday morning after the billionaire entrepreneur, Tesla CEO, and serial pot-stirrer made a $ 43 billion take it or leave it offer to the Twitter board.

“If it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder,” Musk said, according to the Wall Street Journal. That's tantamount to, Let me play as captain or I take my ball and go home.

In typical cheeky fashion, Musk tweeted about the potential deal with echos of The Godfather: “I made an offer”

But why is he doing this?

To understand, we need to rewind a bit. A few weeks ago, Musk started complaining about Twitter as not being a bastion of free speech and ran a poll.

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Musk was airing a common frustration among some Twitter users who complain they're shadow-banned for speaking their minds on the platform. While 70% of his respondents said, “No,” I saw the poll as a flawed exercise in self-selection. Musk's 84 million Twitter followers are often devotees to his particular brand of libertarian maverickism.

Twitter, which is not a government body but in fact a private company, has no compunction to follow the rules of free or balanced speech. Instead, as a private company, it has to protect its users from harm to both themselves and others. It has, as a private company, the right to remove people and their posts as they see fit (if they go outside the platform's published terms of use).

This is somewhat beside the point because I think Musk knows this but just lives to stir the pot and get people thinking – or maybe thinking like him.

He later pressed the point and insisted that Twitter's role as a public town square meant it had to adhere to free speech principles, lest it undermines democracy. 

Again, Twitter is not just a US platform. It operates around the world, even in places that do not support democracy. Musk knows this, but he has pressed on.

Eventually, Musk bought 9.4% of Twitter's shares, joined the board, and then unjoined it before he could, but basically won the right to have outsized influence and hinted he might go further.

Now we know his true intentions. Musk seeks to own and control Twitter outright.

But for what purpose?

What's next?

If Twitter's board accepts this Faustian bargain, it will see a significant portion of Twitter's workforce leave. Musk must know this, as well. Does he hope to replace a depleted knowledge workforce with like-minded Muskians?

Let's say he gets his way and takes ownership. How quickly will Musk acknowledge that Twitter is not in fact just a US-based town square and that using the Constitution as a template for a TOS cannot work for a private, globalized company?

Elon Musk runs Telsa around the world. He sells electric cars to people around the world. A huge chunk of his Twitter followers probably live outside the United States and may dream of living in a democracy where private companies are not beholden to state interests as they are in China.

What is Musk's game here?

I know what he's said in public, but Elon Musk is no dummy and he must know how this plays out. It does not end well for Twitter, but perhaps that's the point. This is just another feint in the game where Musk treats his billions like Monopoly money, sliding orange $ 500 notes from out under the board, throwing them on the table, and demanding Park Place when he really wants Boardwalk. Or maybe he does want them both… then what?

By the time you read this, Twitter may have already rejected Musks' offer, and Musk, as he is wont to do, may have sold off his shares and walked away.

Will he also walk away from Twitter? Probably, but expect him back in six months.

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Why am I so afraid of Elon Musk and editable tweets?

Twitter will, in the not too distant future, let you edit Tweets. That news, which arrived a few days ago, was momentous enough, but felt more like the shocking aftertaste you get from hard candy with a sour middle – that's because we were still digesting the one-two-punch news of Elon Musk buying 10% interest in the company and quickly joining Twitter's board.

This was a lot to take in. 

Understand that I've been using the social network for 15 years. It's only been around for 16 years. Through all the changes, including the launch of a mobile app, the introduction of images, retweets, mentions and threads, doubling the lengths of tweets and the launch of a subscription service, there has never been a week like this.

Twitter has been a sort of de facto record of the early 21st century, with billions of posts, capturing tiny events and big moments, traveling around the world faster than a SpaceX rocket can escape the Earth's gravity.

The only way to change that record has been to delete it; or rather, delete tweets. If you think of Twitter as a personal publishing system (we used to call it a micro-blogging platform), this makes sense. Websites have always given us the ability to add, edit, and remove content. Media sites regularly delete vast quantities of material, mostly to fix search engine optimization issues.

On Twitter, though, most of us never delete our tweets. I do it when there's an embarrassing, egregious error – a wrong or broken link, or a massive typo. Even then, there are times when I lose control of the tweet – it goes a little viral – and removing it might upset hundreds or thousands of people who liked or shared it.

So I leave it, and dream, once again, of the edit button.

Elon Musk

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jim Watson)

I should be happy for Twitter and myself.

It just got a huge cash infusion and vote of confidence from a new part-owner (and from the stock market, which liked the news), and I have confirmation that, after years of pleading, I will in the not-too-distant future, be able to edit my Tweets.

So why am I so anxious?

First, there's the Elon Musk factor.

I've been an avid Musk watcher for years. I first interviewed him in 2012 and eventually created a short-lived, daily Musk-watching podcast called 33 Million Miles to Mars. I understand the guy, and think nothing better captured his genius and surprisingly emotional personality than this 2017 Rolling Stone profile.

It's also pretty easy to see Musk's personality on Twitter, a platform he loves and hates in equal measure. He's been on it for years, and often uses it as his visible ID (and ego), letting loose with silliness, abrasiveness, pique, and insight. I've had, on Twitter a few really interesting conversations with him about Tesla's technology.

Musk cares about Twitter, but he also seems inclined to burn it to the ground; it's clear that he has no intention of being a silent partner. Former CEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey admitted as much when he called the current Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and Musk “a team.”

Viewed as an agent of change, Musk's arrival on the Twitter board could be welcomed with excitement. What will he inspire? What will he demand? What might he carelessly share about Twitter's future plans on Twitter?

Adding Musk to the board is not like bringing on anyone else. He is one of the most recognizable people in the world and a polarizing figure. For every fan of his triumphs in the EV and space sector, there are people who believe him a dangerous, self-aggrandizing showboat. My take is that Musk is a true genius (he taught himself rocket science) with an underdeveloped emotional core.

Shortly after announcing his stock buy, and true to form, Musk took to Twitter and ran a poll on whether Twitter should introduce editable Tweets. More than four million people voted, with 73% saying yes (or “yse” as his tweet comically put it).

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Knowing Musk as I do, I was still processing his big move when Twitter shocked me, and its 300 million-plus other devoted Twitter users, with news that it's currently working on editable tweets. The company insisted that it had been working on the feature for months prior to Musk joining the board.

Sure. Okay.

Instead of being thrilled, though, I felt a new wave of anxiety. Saying “editable tweets” is one thing – implementing the feature in a way that doesn't destabilize Twitter to the point of uselessness is another.

I immediately wondered if I'd be using it to go back and fix silly errors, or a structural problem on my single most viral tweet. I'm not jumping to do it, because the more I think about editing tweets, the more I realize it's not about rewriting history (I pray it's not); it's about fixing of-the-moment errors. Silly things like typos, and bigger things like where you angry-tweet one minute, and realize five minutes later that you can tone it down and not incite a Twitter riot.

My concern meter dialed back a bit after Jay Sullivan, Twitter's Head of Consumer Product, offered a few more details about how Twitter might approach the biggest change to its platform in a decade.

He noted that Twitter knows people want to fix “(sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, typos and hot takes in the moment,” but more crucially added, “Without things like time limits, controls, and transparency about what has been edited, Edit could be misused to alter the record of the public conversation. Protecting the integrity of that public conversation is our top priority when we approach this work.”

Personally, I hope this means that I won't be able to go back five years and tweak my viral tweet, that we'll have change histories, and that historically significant Tweets can't be altered at any time. That last point is a bigger ask, I know, and may relate to who is tweeting. Public figures might be stuck with policy tweets, and only be able to access the editable tweet feature in the first 10 minutes after posting. Unverified and non-public figures might be given more time.

This would be reasonable, but even as I write this, I feel Musk's stare. He has thoughts on this, I'm sure, and could push for more extensive and free-wheeling editable tweet settings, especially some that could help him go back and change everything and anything in his Twitter timeline.

Still, Musk is also a savvy businessman, and could not have built and maintained multiple businesses, especially the successful Tesla and SpaceX, without having exercised some restraint. I have to believe that Musk will show restraint here; otherwise… well, I'll just leave a Musk recent tweet right here.

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Why am I so afraid of Elon Musk and editable tweets?

Twitter will, in the not too distant future, let you edit Tweets. That news, which arrived a few days ago, was momentous enough, but felt more like the shocking aftertaste you get from hard candy with a sour middle – that's because we were still digesting the one-two-punch news of Elon Musk buying 10% interest in the company and quickly joining Twitter's board.

This was a lot to take in. 

Understand that I've been using the social network for 15 years. It's only been around for 16 years. Through all the changes, including the launch of a mobile app, the introduction of images, retweets, mentions and threads, doubling the lengths of tweets and the launch of a subscription service, there has never been a week like this.

Twitter has been a sort of de facto record of the early 21st century, with billions of posts, capturing tiny events and big moments, traveling around the world faster than a SpaceX rocket can escape the Earth's gravity.

The only way to change that record has been to delete it; or rather, delete tweets. If you think of Twitter as a personal publishing system (we used to call it a micro-blogging platform), this makes sense. Websites have always given us the ability to add, edit, and remove content. Media sites regularly delete vast quantities of material, mostly to fix search engine optimization issues.

On Twitter, though, most of us never delete our tweets. I do it when there's an embarrassing, egregious error – a wrong or broken link, or a massive typo. Even then, there are times when I lose control of the tweet – it goes a little viral – and removing it might upset hundreds or thousands of people who liked or shared it.

So I leave it, and dream, once again, of the edit button.

Elon Musk

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jim Watson)

I should be happy for Twitter and myself.

It just got a huge cash infusion and vote of confidence from a new part-owner (and from the stock market, which liked the news), and I have confirmation that, after years of pleading, I will in the not-too-distant future, be able to edit my Tweets.

So why am I so anxious?

First, there's the Elon Musk factor.

I've been an avid Musk watcher for years. I first interviewed him in 2012 and eventually created a short-lived, daily Musk-watching podcast called 33 Million Miles to Mars. I understand the guy, and think nothing better captured his genius and surprisingly emotional personality than this 2017 Rolling Stone profile.

It's also pretty easy to see Musk's personality on Twitter, a platform he loves and hates in equal measure. He's been on it for years, and often uses it as his visible ID (and ego), letting loose with silliness, abrasiveness, pique, and insight. I've had, on Twitter a few really interesting conversations with him about Tesla's technology.

Musk cares about Twitter, but he also seems inclined to burn it to the ground; it's clear that he has no intention of being a silent partner. Former CEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey admitted as much when he called the current Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and Musk “a team.”

Viewed as an agent of change, Musk's arrival on the Twitter board could be welcomed with excitement. What will he inspire? What will he demand? What might he carelessly share about Twitter's future plans on Twitter?

Adding Musk to the board is not like bringing on anyone else. He is one of the most recognizable people in the world and a polarizing figure. For every fan of his triumphs in the EV and space sector, there are people who believe him a dangerous, self-aggrandizing showboat. My take is that Musk is a true genius (he taught himself rocket science) with an underdeveloped emotional core.

Shortly after announcing his stock buy, and true to form, Musk took to Twitter and ran a poll on whether Twitter should introduce editable Tweets. More than four million people voted, with 73% saying yes (or “yse” as his tweet comically put it).

See more

Knowing Musk as I do, I was still processing his big move when Twitter shocked me, and its 300 million-plus other devoted Twitter users, with news that it's currently working on editable tweets. The company insisted that it had been working on the feature for months prior to Musk joining the board.

Sure. Okay.

Instead of being thrilled, though, I felt a new wave of anxiety. Saying “editable tweets” is one thing – implementing the feature in a way that doesn't destabilize Twitter to the point of uselessness is another.

I immediately wondered if I'd be using it to go back and fix silly errors, or a structural problem on my single most viral tweet. I'm not jumping to do it, because the more I think about editing tweets, the more I realize it's not about rewriting history (I pray it's not); it's about fixing of-the-moment errors. Silly things like typos, and bigger things like where you angry-tweet one minute, and realize five minutes later that you can tone it down and not incite a Twitter riot.

My concern meter dialed back a bit after Jay Sullivan, Twitter's Head of Consumer Product, offered a few more details about how Twitter might approach the biggest change to its platform in a decade.

He noted that Twitter knows people want to fix “(sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, typos and hot takes in the moment,” but more crucially added, “Without things like time limits, controls, and transparency about what has been edited, Edit could be misused to alter the record of the public conversation. Protecting the integrity of that public conversation is our top priority when we approach this work.”

Personally, I hope this means that I won't be able to go back five years and tweak my viral tweet, that we'll have change histories, and that historically significant Tweets can't be altered at any time. That last point is a bigger ask, I know, and may relate to who is tweeting. Public figures might be stuck with policy tweets, and only be able to access the editable tweet feature in the first 10 minutes after posting. Unverified and non-public figures might be given more time.

This would be reasonable, but even as I write this, I feel Musk's stare. He has thoughts on this, I'm sure, and could push for more extensive and free-wheeling editable tweet settings, especially some that could help him go back and change everything and anything in his Twitter timeline.

Still, Musk is also a savvy businessman, and could not have built and maintained multiple businesses, especially the successful Tesla and SpaceX, without having exercised some restraint. I have to believe that Musk will show restraint here; otherwise… well, I'll just leave a Musk recent tweet right here.

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Elon Musk now owns almost 10 percent of Twitter

Tesla CEO and tech business mogul Elon Musk now owns 9.2 percent of Twitter shares, according to a recent schedule 13G filing released by the SEC.

Bloomberg states this purchase was worth around $ 2.89 billion and Twitter’s value in the stock market went up 27 percent on Monday, April 4. Naturally, this begs the question why did Musk make this seemingly random purchase, and what does it do for the platform and its users at large?

Musk has yet to publicly state his reasoning for the purchase but looking at his recent Tweets and his history on Twitter may point to his intentions. After all, Elon Musk is one of the most followed accounts on the platform and has even gotten into trouble because of his behavior there.

Was it pl;anned?

A little over a week ago, Musk posted a poll on his account where he asked followers and users if Twitter adheres to the concept of free speech with over 70 percent of respondents saying ‘No.’ This poll doesn’t appear to have influenced his decision as he already made the filing for purchasing on March 14.

The day after that poll, the SpaceX founder stated that since Twitter is the “de factor public town square,’ its supposed failure to advocate free speech “undermines democracy.” He even pondered the need for another Twitter-like platform, which has been attempted in the past, but few can match up against the likes of this social media behemoth.

Musk is no stranger to criticizing the site, like the time he blasted Twitter for spending time and energy on enabling NFT profile pictures. He also posted a meme that depicted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal as Joseph Stalin getting rid of a dissident in the form of former CEO Jack Dorsey.

Vocal criticism aside, that still leaves the question of what will happen to users unanswered.

A small piece

It’s not like Musk has total control over Twitter, but it’s difficult to believe that someone would buy almost 10 percent of the one largest social media platforms in the world and do nothing with it. So far, neither Elon Musk or Twitter have alluded to or pointed out any changes coming to the site.

In recent years, Twitter has been criticized for its content and how it polices itself. Some have said that Twitter doesn’t do enough to combat misinformation while others complain about censorship.

We’ve reached out to Elon Musk and Twitter for a comment and will update this post with their responses.

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