Axios Login

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April 28, 2022

I’ll have more to say about the Warriors game in Friday’s Login. For now, I will just say that it was indeed loud at Chase Center.

📣 Situational awareness: Twitter released what could be its last quarterly earnings this morning, reporting a revenue of $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2022, up 16% from last year, but below expectations.

Today's newsletter is 1,166 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: What Musk's free-speech Twitter could unleash

Illustration of the Twitter logo falling into a hypnotic spiral.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Elon Musk's pledge to allow any speech on Twitter that doesn't break the law would open the door to a pandemonium of objectionable and harmful content.

Why it matters: Even much smaller social networks that aimed to minimize content moderation have found that an "anything goes if it's legal" policy quickly devolves into a miasma of violence, spam, fraud and bullying.

State of play: Twitter's current rules lay out a wide range of prohibited types of content. Some, like violent threats or child exploitation, are likely to still be prohibited under Musk's policy.

But much of what Twitter now bars is not explicitly illegal. Here are some kinds of content Twitter's rules now prohibit that could return under Musk:

Election misinformation

  • Twitter's current rules say, "You may not use Twitter's services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes."
  • MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell lost his Twitter account after repeatedly claiming former President Trump had won the 2020 election.

Medical misinformation

  • Twitter has a policy against COVID-19-related misinformation. Medical misinformation, though, is not broadly illegal.
  • Twitter permanently suspended the personal account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in January for repeated violations of its COVID misinformation policies, including her false claim of "extremely high amounts of COVID vaccine deaths."

Targeted attacks and hateful conduct

  • Twitter's hateful conduct policy prohibits a wide range of behavior. Some, such as specific threats of violence, may be illegal, but Twitter's policy goes further.
  • Among the practices that are not allowed on Twitter are displaying logos of hate groups, dehumanizing a group of people based on a wide range of characteristics including race, gender, religion or sexuality, as well as intentionally misgendering someone.

Deepfakes and manipulated media

  • "You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm," Twitter's rules say.

Impersonating others

  • Twitter says, "You may not impersonate individuals, groups, or organizations to mislead, confuse, or deceive others, nor use a fake identity in a manner that disrupts the experience of others on Twitter."
  • In some cases, such behavior could be illegal, but there are plenty of instances where it would not violate the law.

Platform manipulation and spam

  • "You may not use Twitter's services in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people's experience on Twitter," according to the site's rules.
  • Musk has criticized bots and other types of inauthentic behavior, but most instances of them aren't specifically illegal.

Graphic violence and adult content

  • Twitter currently does not allow media that is "excessively gory" or that depicts sexual violence. That means there's plenty of very graphic video currently prohibited that is not explicitly illegal.

Suicide or self-harm

  • Twitter's rules say that "you may not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm." While harassing someone to pressure them to hurt themselves can be illegal, glorifying or encouraging suicide broadly are not. The same holds for glorifying anorexia and other eating disorders.

Be smart: Laws vary by country. Pro-Nazi content, for example, is legal in the U.S. but illegal in Germany.

  • The EU has already warned that it expects a Musk-run Twitter to follow its rules.

The big picture: The content most often removed from Twitter includes graphic violence, hateful conduct, abuse and harassment or promotion of suicide and self harm, according to Karen Kornbluh, director of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund.

  • According to Twitter's own reports, the company removed 5.2 million pieces of content during the first half of 2021 for violating rules in those four categories.

2. 55 countries commit to internet freedom

An illustration of a globe covered in red Ethernet cabling

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries have signed a pact committing to keeping the internet freely accessible and open.

Why it matters: The move is designed to counter a growing trend of countries enacting policies to block part or all of the internet.

Details: The "Declaration for the Future of the Internet" commits signatories to ensuring the internet is "open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure" and works as "a single, decentralized network of networks."

  • It outlines a number of broad goals around protecting human rights, promoting competition, ensuring sustainability and refraining from using the network as a tool for government surveillance.

Context: The document grew out of a Biden administration-led effort, originally known as the Alliance for the Future of the Internet.

Who's not on board: Russia, China and North Korea haven't yet signed on. Neither have India and Brazil.

The big picture: The declaration comes amid increasing fears that the global internet could fracture into various "splinternets," as well as a rise in countries implementing partial or total blocks on internet access.

Between the lines: While the declaration addresses some issues related to cyberattacks, such as ransomware and international election interference, the pact is not the kind of Geneva Convention of cyberwarfare that many advocate.

3. Attention economy slowdown hits Meta

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

After two years of unprecedented growth in social media and streaming, a post-pandemic reality is beginning to set in, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: Huge revenue gains during COVID inspired media and tech titans to take big bets. As growth stalls, Wall Street wants them to pivot from promise to profit.

Driving the news: Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday strayed from his typical earnings call remarks about innovation, telling investors that given current growth levels, "we are now planning to slow the pace of some of our investments."

  • Meta's revenue percentage growth sunk to single digits last quarter, marking its slowest growth period since going public as Facebook more than a decade ago.
  • Google parent Alphabet saw its shares drop 3% earlier this week after it reported weaker-than-expected advertising revenue growth at YouTube and slowed growth for Google search compared to last year.
  • Spotify's stock sunk to an all-time low Thursday after missing Wall Street estimates on paid user growth.

The big picture: Slowed growth coming out of the pandemic, in conjunction with wider macroeconomic factors like inflation and the war in Ukraine, is forcing the biggest companies in media, tech and entertainment to temper expectations.

  • Netflix executives are vowing to impose more "financial discipline" in response to a massive selloff last week, per the Wall Street Journal. The company lost more than $200 billion in market value after reporting its first quarterly subscriber loss in a decade.

4. Take note

On Tap

  • Earnings reports include Apple, Amazon, Intel and Roku.

Trading Places

  • FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks said his chief of staff, William Davenport, is leaving his post at the end of the month. Austin Bonner, Starks' legal adviser for media and consumer protection issues, will serve as acting chief of staff.
  • Corporate spending startup Rho hired Twitter and LinkedIn veteran Christine Cuoco as vice president of marketing and American Express executive Michael Allain as vice president of sales.


6. After you Login

Kudos to illustrator Amber Share, who turned bad user reviews of America's national parks into promotional posters for said parks.