Elon Musk, Krakow, Poland, 2024
Elon Musk attends a symposium on fighting antisemitism in Krakow, Poland, on January 22, 2024. Photo credit: © Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

Elon Musk wants to harness the wisdom of millions of Twitter users to replace traditional journalism. Not surprisingly, that plan contains some serious flaws.

Listen To This Story
Voiced by Amazon Polly

This week, Elon Musk bragged that X, his social media platform formerly known as Twitter, is “the number one source of news in the world.” 

What a frightening thought. 

For a moment, let’s pretend that Musk is a well-meaning and well-informed person with no political agenda. Even then, it would be deeply troubling for one person to outright own and control the world’s top news source.

Sadly, Musk seems neither well-meaning nor well-informed… and he certainly has a political agenda. 

This troubling combination has made him one of the world’s greatest superspreaders of propaganda and misinformation.

Not even Rupert Murdoch or Donald Trump could give him a run for his money, because their lies have mainly screwed up just two countries (though more thoroughly). 

But Twitter* is everywhere. 

And that’s how Musk wants it. Apparently, his goal is to have a hand in what people across the globe see and believe.

In an interview this week, he made it clear that he views his platform as the way news will reach people in the future. 

“So what we are doing on the X platform is [that] we are using AI to sum up the aggregated input from millions of users,” Musk said. “I think that this is really going to be the new model of news, which is to gather information from people who are at the scene, who are experts in the field, and summarize the experts in the field and people who are in the field at whatever event is being talked about and aggregate that into a real-time newsfeed.”

There are just a couple of problems with what he said: Twitter isn’t actually a news site, and most of “the experts in the field” aren’t experts at all but rather a bunch of yahoos. 

Musk should know… because he is one of them. 

Not surprisingly, since he bought the site, he has amassed more followers than anybody else on the planet.

What has he done with that power of being able to reach nearly 200 million people instantaneously with a few keystrokes? 

Nothing useful.

Apart from promoting the products his companies sell, Musk mainly amplifies content that, at best, could be called “misleading.” However, if we assume that he is reasonably intelligent and knows what he is doing, then the inevitable conclusion is that he is trying to manipulate his followers.

In many cases, Musk doesn’t post original content himself but rather retweets or replies to Tweets from others (mainly right-wing influencers) with brief comments, therefore greatly expanding their reach.

In addition to promoting Republicans and their platform, he also seems to be a fan of xenophobia and subtle racism. Of course, these are often synonymous these days. 

But he also branches out into other areas, like undermining US elections and helping disseminate Russian propaganda.

Last year, after the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, Musk recommended that people follow an account known for spreading misinformation. 

Finally, the European Union found that Twitter is the social media site where disinformation is most rampant.

And that’s why his highfalutin talk of remaking the news is dangerous nonsense. 

First of all, people don’t go to Twitter to get news; they go there to be entertained and to have their views confirmed.

In essence, the site has become a gigantic ideological echo chamber, which makes sense because people can choose whom they follow, and therefore, in theory, what they get to see. 

But is that really true when there is one person who can tweak the algorithm and therefore manipulate everybody’s experience… especially if that person has an agenda?

In any case, for the majority of people, this clearly isn’t a place to stay informed… unless it’s about celebrity gossip.

The numbers back that up. 

Among the 20 accounts with the most followers, there is a single news site — CNN’s Breaking News channel — which comes in at number 18 with 63.8 million followers.

Apart from that, the list mainly includes musicians and athletes. 

Of course, Musk wasn’t referring to Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber when saying all those things about “experts.”

That would be ridiculous. 

Instead, he probably meant all the right-wing influencers he promotes. 

Granted, he doesn’t put it like that. 

According to Musk, his website is a better purveyor of news because its users don’t just get the world’s entire news content but also “more than you would find in a newspaper.” 

That part is certainly correct. 

You do find more on Twitter than in a newspaper… like blatant propaganda, manipulated content, pornography, misinformation, and QAnon-type conspiracy theories. 

Who is disseminating all of that extra content? 

All of us, of course. 

“If you aggregate that [news content] in real time, now you’ve got real-time aggregation of the collective wisdom [of] tens of millions of people,” Musk said. 

Well, if you know anything about people, you know there is very little collective wisdom these days. In fact, on Twitter, fake news spreads faster than real news… and that was even before Musk took over and ruined the site.

Fortunately, he doesn’t want to kill the news media entirely. 

“There is still a role for conventional news, but it’s smaller and smaller over time,” he said. “What AI is doing and what the Internet is doing is aggregating the wisdom of the people. And the fact is that experts in a field know more than reporters.”

It certainly would be nice if only “experts in the field” posted their thoughts on any issue. For example, a psychiatrist would be an excellent source for an informed view on Trump’s mental state.

However, on Twitter, that opinion counts just as much as that of @MAGApatriot69. 

For that reason, it would be great if there were a way to denote who is an actual expert… like a blue checkmark.

Oh, wait; Musk did away with that. Now, every idiot can get one if they pay for it. 

In other words, he intentionally dumbed down Twitter… and then took away safeguards impeding the spread of misinformation. 

Musk doesn’t quite see it that way.

He believes that incorrect information on his site is corrected more quickly than an error in a newspaper. 

That would be nice. The problem is that most misinformation, including that which he spreads, is never corrected at all. 

And how could it be? There is an endless supply of it. 

There is one more reason why “the wisdom of millions of X users” is nothing like actual news. 

Sure, if an earthquake hits somewhere in the Philippines, users in Manila can quickly post images. But these are just snapshots that can’t provide information on the overall scope of destruction or potential rescue efforts. 

Even more importantly, this “collective wisdom” (and we are using that term extremely loosely) does not provide information on what happens behind closed doors. 

For example, when Trump proposed to nuke hurricanes or purchase Greenland, none of the people in those meetings tweeted about it… but some of them did speak to actual reporters. 

And, while Musk seems to say that crowdsourcing journalism is a great thing, he probably feels very differently about Tesla employees coming forward with some negative news about the company. 

We already know that he is not a fan of being asked about some of his more extreme views.

In March, Musk sat down with Don Lemon for an interview but got irritated when he was asked whether it would be beneficial if he restrained some of his tweeting impulses or if there were better content moderation on the platform, so that he “wouldn’t have to answer these questions from reporters about the Great Replacement Theory?”

Musk correctly responded that he did not have to (and clearly did not want to) answer these questions at all. 

In other words, he did not feel like being part of that collective wisdom one bit.

And, if the guy who runs the site doesn’t want to do it, then what’s the value of everybody else participating in Musk’s grand project to kill journalism?

*Editor’s Note: While Elon Musk has changed the name of the platform from “Twitter” to “X,” we are not interested in catering to the whims of every billionaire manchild. That is why we will keep using Twitter and trust that our astute readers will be able to figure out what we are talking about. For more on this, please read “Elon Musk Has an Xtremely Stupid Idea.”


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

    View all posts

Comments are closed.