Has Elon Musk broken Twitter?

When I want to know what politicians are saying, including Lib Dem MPs and peers, I turn to Twitter. When I want to get a message out to a broader community than my town (for which I use Facebook), I use Twitter.

But Twitter is in trouble. Serious trouble. That trouble goes by the name of Elon Musk.

True, Twitter was languishing. Failing to effectively monetise its product. Too many staff. Not enough innovation.

But Elon Musk’s shock and awe approach to managing a company he wasn’t that interested in running is weakening the Twitter brand and weakening its credibility. Mass sackings. Mass resignations. Mass closure of accounts. Defections to Mastodon. Record Twitter use but much of that criticising Musk and bemoaning what Twitter is becoming.

Will I join the mass movement and leave Twitter? Not yet. But I don’t rule it out.

Twitter is being weakened at a crucial time. The football World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday. Fandom is (was?) expected to flood Twitter with support for teams and minute by minute cheers and groans. Those that oppose the ultra-conservative Qatar regime, with its ban on LGBT+ and on booze in stadiums, its paying of fans to attend and cheer teams, its use of football icon David Beckham to promote the country, and the mistreatments and fatalities of migrant workers were expected to air their views on Twitter.

This is where Twitter works best. Where it works worst is allowing people to bully, abuse, threaten and promote misogyny and racism. Allowing lies and fake news to be propagated. Allowing bots, many sponsored by Russian and other anti-west regimes, to undermine democratic processes.

Allowing Donald Trump to promote his brand of unreality. He was banned but Elon Musk is now holding an online vote on whether Trump should be readmitted to Twitter. This comes after the failure of Trump’s own social media platform which is only used by journalists looking for a story and those that adore the prophetic rhetoric of the mighty Trump. I do not doubt that the right wing of the Republicans and Trump’s worshiping fans will ensure that they win the vote.

Twitter has always been anarchic. Random. Trivial. Shaping world opinion. Helping people in disasters, personal and national. Giving us news that is real, but also regrettably too much “news” that is unreal.

But Elon Musk doesn’t seem to be protecting the integrity of Twitter. Many of the moderation team have gone, sacked or having walked away. Musk has demanded that everyone work from the office, only to ease back on that demand. He has summoned software engineers to Twitter Towers in San Francisco this weekend demanding to know what they are contributing to the company and asking them to submit code as proof.

Musk may not have wished to buy Twitter but with his $56bn pay package (more than the $44bn he paid for Twitter), now being challenged in court, he should perhaps he should relax a little. Spend time understanding Twitter and its staff. Valuing those who made Twitter one the world’s top social media platforms. Making Twitter work and make profits.

Elon Musk is the goose than laid the golden egg in the form of Tesla and Space X. Ambitious companies that have pushed the boundaries of current technology and commercialising technologies that many thought could never be commercial. But is he now going to make Twitter a lame duck?

Will I walk away from Twitter as so many have done? Not yet. After 13 years and following 2,031 people and with 2,231 followers, it would be a big wrench. True I don’t need to follow all those people or have them following me. But I get useful feedback on my work and opinions. I also get important direct messages that raise issues that as a councillor I need to know about and usually have to deal with urgently (though Messenger is becoming far more important). So, I am not going. Yet.

The way Twitter is going, I think we may all be going shortly.

Elon Musk may have truly wrecked Twitter. And many people are angry.

And the real Space Karen is angry with people calling Elon Musk a Space Karen.

So very American comments and so very Twitter. It’s why we love Twitter and hate it in the same breath.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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2 Comments

  • David Garlick 20th Nov '22 - 9:20pm

    One might hope so but the people who leave twitter leave space for those who think DT is a good guy. Stick with it and drown them out.
    I don’t twit.

  • As a means of passing out notifications to anyone who might be interested that some event has been arranged or has happened, Twitter (or any of its equivalents) is very useful. A link to a website for those interested enough to look works fine. Pictures and even worse those three second repeating mini videos with some slogan are almost entirely a waste of space except to people easily amused by such.

    For political debate and getting over anything more than a slogan it is absolutely useless, the limit on number of characters makes sure of that, but as a means of rabble rousing and simply making people angry it is destructively effective.

    Also the use of automated bots to repeat and spread misinformation is a threat to everyone who believes that civilized discourse based on compromise and balance is the only way to solve our world’s problems.

    Finally, the huge profits that can be made out of these things is frightening, and is never dealt with by internal policies because the nasty stuff, the clickbait is where the money is. Hence the addictive nature of so much on twitter and other social media platforms impressionable adults, but even worse to pliable young minds is truly frightening.

    If it collapses, I won’t be very upset, but what replaces it?

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