The X-Rated Economics Of Elon Musk's Info War

I'm a big fan of WNYC's "The Brian Leher Show," as well as the journalist it featured in a segment on Thursday, Wired magazine's David Gilbert. I'm calling it out today, and embedding the segment below, because I think it will help people understand yet another role advertising plays in enabling disinformation and or misinformation, especially on -- how shall I say this -- less-than-responsible social media platforms.

Or as Gilbert lays out in the segment -- as well as in his Wired coverage -- in the case of X Corp.'s platform, it is an increasingly lessening of responsibility. But if you ask me, my gut tells me it's much more willful than that.

And it's not just Musk's personal "shitposting" of disinformation via his personal account, but some explicit changes he's made to the platform's advertising revenue-sharing model that have created an economic incentive for spreading disinformation, while at the same time creating a disincentive for the reach of legitimate news organizations on the platform.



I recommend you listen to the segment and hear it in Gilbert's own words, because it breaks it down in very simple terms, but here's the nut quote that will give you the gist:

“If you sign up for $8 a month, no matter who you are, no matter what kind of information you’re pumping out, and you get the clicks, you’re going to get paid by [X Corp.]. That just automatically creates an ecosystem where disinformation is hugely valuable and the person who is pumping out the most of it, and who does it quickest, and who posts the most extreme content, is going to get the most money.”

Gilbert, of course, is talking about X Corp.'s new rev-share model, in which any user that pays for its $8 monthly "blue checkmark" verification subscriptions, gets two automatic benefits: a) They get the reach of their posts amplified by X's algorithm; and b) they get paid a share of ad revenues based on the number of other users they reach.

Gilbert's point is that while that may make sense from a business point-of-view, it doesn't make very much sense to create an economic incentive for people to post unvetted information content and amplify it, especially when many forms of disinformation have been proven to be more viral than truthful information.

That's a toxic economic model for society and, if you're still one of the advertisers or agencies placing budgets on X's platform, some of your money could be going to the spread of disinformation, including the kind that is disrupting public knowledge and creating discord around real-time, life-and-death subjects like the war between Hamas and Israel.

But listen to the show and tell me what you think.

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