Elon Musk’s tunnels to nowhere

“In late 2016, billionaire Elon Musk was sitting in traffic on West Los Angeles’s notoriously clogged 405 freeway while shuttling between one of his Bel Air mansions and SpaceX’s headquarters in nearby Hawthorne. Fed up with “soul-destroying traffic,” he initially suggested adding another layer to the 405 before tweeting out an even more far-fetched idea: a 3D network of tunnels.
The idea is even more complicated than it sounds: Teslas would drive from the street onto elevator platforms called car “skates,” be lowered to tunnels below ground, and be propelled autonomously at 120 to 150 miles per hour to their destinations, while their passengers relaxed. Thus was launched the Boring Company.

Musk’s new company bought a machine and started boring a tunnel under Hawthorne. An opening party for the test tunnel in late 2018 received mixed reviews. The path was bumpy; the cars did not drive themselves, and they never went faster than 40 miles an hour.

In the years since, the company built a 1.7-mile-long tunnel under the Las Vegas convention center, in which passengers are ferried back and forth in human-driven Teslas. Proposed projects in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Baltimore were scrapped. But that hasn’t stopped cities large and small, in California, Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and elsewhere, from expressing interest in building tunnels for cars. But as Curbed’s Alissa Walker explains on Today, Explained, the company is continually ghosting these cities once they bump into permitting issues or other infrastructural complexities.”

What the Twitter files don’t tell us

“journalists Weiss and Taibbi shared details of some of the documents and their own analysis in two long Twitter threads. The revelations are ongoing, with plans to post more in the coming days. Their central accusation so far is that Twitter has long silenced conservative or contrarian voices, and they reference internal emails, Slack messages, and content moderation systems to show how Twitter limited the reach of popular right-wing accounts like Dan Bongino, Charlie Kirk, and Libs of TikTok.
But these claims and the internal documents lack crucial context.

We don’t have a full explanation, for example, of why Twitter limited the reach of these accounts — i.e., whether they were violating the platform’s rules on hate speech, health misinformation, or violent content. Without this information, we don’t know whether these rules were applied fairly or not. Twitter has long acknowledged that it sometimes downranks content that is violative of its rules instead of all-out banning it. It’s a strategy that Musk himself has advocated for by arguing that people should have “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach” on the platform.

And while Weiss has surfaced specific examples of Twitter limiting the reach of conservative accounts known for spreading hateful content about the LGTBQ+ community or sharing the “big lie” about the US presidential elections, we don’t know if Twitter did the same for some far-left accounts that have also been known for pushing boundaries, such as some former Occupy movement leaders who have complained about Twitter’s content moderation in the past.

Musk, Weiss, and Taibbi are also assuming these decisions were made with explicit political motivation. Historically, most Twitter employees — like the rest of Big Tech — lean liberal. Twitter’s conservative critics argue that this presents an inherent bias in the company’s content moderation decisions. Former Twitter employees Recode spoke with this week insisted that content moderation teams operate in good faith to execute on Twitter’s policy rules, regardless of personal politics. And research shows that Twitter’s recommendation algorithms actually have an inherent bias in favor of right-wing news. What’s been shared so far in the Twitter files doesn’t offer clear proof that anyone at Twitter made decisions about specific accounts or tweets because of their political affiliation. We need more context and information to clarify what’s really going on here.

But to right-wing politicians, influencers, and their supporters, none of this nuance ultimately matters.”

Elon Musk Enforces Twitter’s Ban on ‘Hateful Conduct’ As Critics Predict a Flood of Bigotry

“There is obviously a tension between Twitter’s commitment to “free expression” and its prohibition of hate speech. But while even the vilest expressions of bigotry are protected by the First Amendment, that does not mean a private company is obligated to allow them in a forum it owns. Twitter has made a business judgment that the cost of letting people talk about how awful Jews are, in terms of alienating users and advertisers, outweighs any benefit from allowing users to “express their opinions and beliefs” without restriction.
Other social media platforms strike a different balance and advertise lighter moderation as a virtue. But all of them have some sort of ground rules, because a completely unfiltered experience is appealing only in theory.

Parler, for example, describes itself as “the premier global free speech app,” a refuge for people frustrated by heavy-handed moderation on other platforms. It nevertheless promises to remove “threatening or inciting content.” Parler also offers the option of a “‘trolling’ filter” (mandatory in the Apple version of the app) that is designed to block “personal attacks based on immutable or otherwise irrelevant characteristics such as race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion.” Such content, it explains, “often doesn’t contribute to a productive conversation, and so we wanted to provide our users with a way to minimize it in their feeds, should they choose to do so.””

“Musk has invited back inflammatory political figures such as Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Green. He has rescinded Twitter’s ban on “COVID-19 misinformation,” a fuzzy category that ranged from demonstrably false assertions of fact to arguably or verifiably true statements that were deemed “misleading” or contrary to government advice. At the same time, however, Musk has interpreted Twitter’s rule against impersonation as requiring that parody accounts be clearly labeled as such, and he evidently thinks enforcing the ban on “hateful conduct” is important enough to justify banishing a celebrity with a huge following.”

Elon Musk and Matt Taibbi Reveal Why Twitter Censored the Hunter Biden Laptop Story

“The thread contains fascinating screenshots of conversations between various content moderators and company executives as the laptop story debacle was unfolding. But given how massively Musk hyped the revelations, the results are a tad disappointing, and mostly confirm what the public already assumed: A (still unidentified) employee or process flagged the story as “unsafe” and suppressed its spread, and then Twitter moderators devised a retroactive justification—violation of a “hacked materials” policy—for having taken such an extraordinary step. Then-CEO Jack Dorsey was largely absent from these conversations; Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety played “a key role.” None of this material is groundbreaking; it’s already well-known.
To be clear, it’s useful to see some of these internal messages. They confirm that Twitter’s various departments—communications, moderation, senior management—horrendously mismanaged the entire affair. They were not all on the same page: Vice President of Global Communications Brandon Borrman, for example, was immediately unconvinced by the “hacked materials” justification.”

“The most interesting revelation in Taibbi’s thread is that Twitter’s top executives were warned, over and over again, that this decision was going to create a backlash like nothing they had ever seen before. Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.), a progressive lawmaker, repeatedly emailed a Twitter communications staffer to complain that the firm was violating “1st Amendment principles.” (He raised some very valid points in his communications with the company, though strictly speaking the First Amendment does not apply in this situation.) NetChoice, a tech industry trade association, explicitly told Twitter that this would be the company’s “Access Hollywood moment.” (Unlike Twitter, both Khanna and NetChoice come off looking pretty good in all this.)”

Who’s winning, and losing, in the Elon Twitter era

“when Musk changed his mind about buying Twitter, many believed he would somehow get out of it, even if his legal justification seemed flimsy. But this time, Musk didn’t get out of it. That’s because, in large part, of the Delaware Court of Chancery, the business court overseeing Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk.
If he kept fighting the case, Musk would risk having to disclose more potentially embarrassing texts from his friends that could damage his image. And he was facing a judge with a no-nonsense reputation who might rule against him in the end. Even with a nearly endless supply of money to fund the best legal team, Musk ultimately backed down and closed the deal with Twitter on the original terms he’d agreed to in April.

This was a win for the rule of law, showing that even if you’re the richest man in the world, sometimes you do have to follow through on your obligations.”