Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian believes Elon Musk faces a “unique challenge” as he buys Twitter and promises to turn it into a hub for “free speech.”
Speaking Tuesday at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Ohanian recalled Reddit’s challenges in dealing with extremist and racist views that spread on the social media platform. In 2020, Ohanian resigned from Reddit’s board, criticizing the company for not doing more to combat hate speech on its site. On Tuesday, he said centralized platforms have a responsibility for the content that they show users.
“It's not about speech, it is about reach. And the part that social media messed up is [that] virality is much more equated to the extremes,” Ohanian said. “That reach is what the most extreme people want; they want to be able to be seen by millions and millions of people.”
That view is in sharp contrast to Musk’s position on content moderation. After agreeing to buy Twitter for $44 billion, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has said he believes that Twitter shouldn’t restrict speech that’s legally protected under U.S. law. Social media titans such as Santa Monica-based Snap and Culver City-based TikTok are typically more proactive, taking down harmful content that might not be technically illegal. Twitter itself has banned users for spreading misinformation—most notably, former President Donald Trump.
Ohanian said he doesn’t believe a Musk-owned Twitter will be as bad as Musk’s detractors may fear, nor as good as his biggest fans may hope. He described Musk as “an incredible entrepreneur” who has solved difficult problems in “the physical atomic world”—but running a social media giant isn’t exactly rocket science, Ohanian said.
“Being the CEO…of a social platform, like Twitter, is as much being a head of state as it is a head of business,” he said. “You have to deal with humans who are irrational, unlike the laws of physics.”
Ohanian, who now runs venture capital firm Seven Seven Six, made the remarks during a discussion about Web3—the promised next iteration of the internet, which would deploy blockchain technology to “decentralize” applications. He predicted that Twitter may ultimately take a Web3-oriented approach, noting the company backed a nonprofit project to develop a decentralized standard for social media. Musk, like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is also a major proponent of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
“In Web1, if you had bonkers things to say, no one really saw it. The websites existed, but they didn't go viral—there was no way to go viral,” Ohanian said. “And I think with Web3, we'll actually get back to that in a lot of ways.”
- The Boring Company Leaves Los Angeles for Austin - dot.LA ›
- Elon Musk on Starlink, A.I. Dangers and Bill Gates' Car - dot.LA ›
- UCLA Is Offering A New Class On Elon Musk - dot.LA ›
- Can Twitter Survive Elon Musk's Verification Fire Sale? - dot.LA ›
- Celebrities Booted From Twitter for Impersonating Elon Musk - dot.LA ›
- A Look at What's Happening at Every Company Elon Musk Owns - dot.LA ›