It is a toxic wastebasket. A lifeline. The world’s pulse. Twitter can be all of these and more for its 229 million users worldwide — celebrities, journalists, activists and weirdos, politicians, cats and dog lovers, and anyone with an internet connection.
Elon Musk is the ultimate troll of Twitter and its most prolific user. The company’s buyout is in increasingly uncertain waters. Twitter is a “de facto town square” that is desperately in need of libertarian reform.
It is unknown if and how the takeover will occur. Musk tweeted that the deal was “on hold” and that he was “committed” to it on Friday. Musk, a billionaire Tesla CEO, stated earlier in the week that he would reverse President Donald Trump’s ban on the platform. He also stated that he supports a new European Union law to protect social media users against harmful content. On Thursday, Twitter’s current CEO fired two of his top managers.
Twitter has had a turbulent few weeks. One thing is certain, the chaos will not stop.
“Twitter at its highest level has always been chaotic. It has always been intrigue-driven and has always had drama,” said Leslie Miley (a former Twitter engineering manager). He says that this is part of Twitter’s DNA.
‘WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT?
Twitter has been a force to be reckoned with since its humble beginnings in 2007 as a “microblogging” service at the South by Southwest Festival, Austin, Texas.
It has remained small in a world where its competitors count their users in the billions. This frustrates Wall Street and makes it easier for Musk, who can make an offer that its board cannot refuse.
Twitter’s public nature, its largely text-based interface, and sense of chronological urgency make it an unrivaled force in news, politics, and society.
In a 2009 article about the company, Michael Liedtke, an Associated Press technology writer, wrote that “It’s a potluck full of pithy self-expression simmering with whimsy. Twitter was home to 27 employees, with Barack Obama being its most popular user.
The San Francisco icon is home to 7,500 employees today. Obama is still the most well-known account holder. Katy Perry and Justin Bieber are close behind (Musk is No. 6). Twitter’s rise into the mainstream can be documented through world events. The Arab Spring, terrorist attacks, and other crucial moments in our collective history were all recorded on Twitter in real-time.
“Twitter is often a magnet for thinkers. A text-based platform is more appealing to people who think about things. It’s also full of journalists. Twitter is both a reflection and a driver for what people think about,” writes Cathy Reisenwitz (writer, editor, and creator of OnlyFans), who has been using Twitter since 2010 with over 18,000 followers.
It’s a great way to meet people, share ideas and have others read her writing. She has remained on the platform for all these years despite being harassed and threatened with death.
Users of Twitter are in academia, niche fields, people with unusual interests, members of small and large subcultures, activists from grassroots, researchers, and many others. Why? It promises an open and free exchange of facts, ideas and knowledge, which can be debated, questioned, and shared at its best.
Those subcultures are formidable. There are many subcultures: Black Twitter, feminist Twitter; Japanese cat Twitter; ER nurse Twitter.
Brooke Erin Duffy is a Cornell University professor who studies social media. She says that it has enabled interest groups to have important in-group dialogs, particularly those that are organized around the topic of social identity.
THE DARK SIDE
Twitter’s immediate nature, public nature, and 140-character limit are just two of the many advantages. This allows for passions to rise high, especially anger.
Steve Phillips, who was formerly the general manager of the New York Mets and now hosts a podcast on MLB Network Radio, says that Twitter’s anonymity allows people to take photos sometimes but it is still one of the best ways to communicate with people who share similar interests.
There’s also the dark side of Twitter. This is the Twitter that supports conspiracy theorists, demented trolls, and nation-states funding large networks of influencers to vote.
Jaime Longoria is the manager of research for Disinfo Defense League and says that Musk’s purchase puts at risk a platform that many experts believe has done better in controlling harmful content than its competitors.
Longoria states, “We’re waiting and watching.” “The Twitter we know might be gone.”
Jack Dorsey, then-CEO, stated in a series of tweets that the company was committed to “collective health”, openness and civility of public discussion and that it would hold itself publicly accountable for progress.
Twitter’s trust and safety team has led the effort to improve things. It adopted new policies, labeled false information and kicked out repeat violators of its rules against hate inciting violence and other harmful activity. Things have improved in fits and starts, at least in the United States of America and Western Europe.
However, outside of Western democracies, there has not been much change in the way that hate and misinformation are dealt with.
“There is a lot of hate on Twitter, particularly directed at minorities.” Shoaib Daiyal, the associate editor at Indian news site Scroll, says that there is a constant struggle to get Twitter to crack down on hate speech.
Musk’s absolute freedom of speech, Daniyal claims, isn’t very practical in India, where there aren’t many restrictions on speech.
He says, “It’s pretty filled with hate anyway.” “And Twitter has not done much about it. Let’s just see what happens.” This, considering Musk’s mercurial nature could take him in almost any direction.