As Musk buyout looms, Twitter searches for its soul

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A poisonous cesspool. A lifeline. A finger on the world’s pulse. Twitter is all these items and extra to its over 229 million customers world wide – politicians, journalists, activists, celebrities, weirdos and normies, cat and canine lovers and nearly anybody else with an web connection.

For Elon Musk, its final troll and maybe most prolific person whose buyout of the corporate is on more and more shaky floor, Twitter is a “de facto town square” in dire want of a libertarian makeover.

Whether and the way the takeover will occur is anybody’s guess. On Friday, Musk introduced that the deal is “on hold,” whereas tweeting that he was nonetheless “committed” to it. Earlier within the week, the billionaire Tesla CEO mentioned he’d reverse the platform’s ban of President Donald Trump if his buy goes by way of. The identical day, he additionally mentioned he supported a brand new European Union legislation aimed toward defending social media customers from dangerous content material. Twitter’s present CEO, in the meantime, fired two prime managers on Thursday.

All that mentioned, It’s been a messy few weeks for Twitter. One factor is definite: the turmoil will proceed, inside and out of doors of the corporate.

“Twitter at its highest levels has always been chaos. It has always had intrigue and it has always had drama,” says Leslie Miley, a former Twitter engineering supervisor. “This,” he says, “is in Twitter’s DNA.”


From its 2007 begin as a scrappy “microblogging service” on the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Twitter has at all times punched above its weight.

At a time when its rivals rely their customers by the billions, it has stayed small, irritating Wall Street and making it simpler for Musk to swoop in with a proposal its board couldn’t refuse.

But Twitter additionally wields unmatched affect on information, politics and society because of its public nature, its easy, largely text-based interface and its sense of chronological immediacy.

“It’s a potluck of pithy self-expression simmering with whimsy, narcissism, voyeurism, hucksterism, tedium and sometimes useful information,” Associated Press expertise author Michael Liedtke wrote in a 2009 story in regards to the firm. Twitter had 27 workers on the time, and its hottest person was Barack Obama.

Today, the San Francisco icon employs 7,500 folks. Obama remains to be its hottest account holder, adopted by pop stars Justin Bieber and Katy Perry (Musk is No. 6). Twitter’s rise to the mainstream might be chronicled by way of world occasions, as wars, terror assaults, the Arab Spring, the #MeToo motion and different pivotal moments in our collective historical past performed out in actual time on the platform.

“Twitter often attracts thinkers. People who are thinking about things tend to be attracted to a text-based platform. And it’s full of journalists. So Twitter is both a reflection of and a driver of what people are thinking about,” says author, editor and OnlyFans creator Cathy Reisenwitz, who’s been on Twitter since 2010 and has over 18,000 followers.

She finds it nice for locating folks and concepts and having others uncover her writing and ideas. That’s why she’s stayed all these years, regardless of harassment and dying threats she’s acquired on the platform.

Twitter customers in academia, in area of interest fields, these with quirky pursuits, subcultures small and massive, grassroots activists, researchers and a bunch of others flock to the platform. Why? Because at its greatest, it guarantees an open, free trade of information and concepts, the place data is shared, debated and questioned.

And these subcultures – they’re formidable. There’s Black Twitter, feminist Twitter, baseball Twitter, Japanese cat Twitter, ER nurse Twitter and so forth.

“It’s enabled interest groups, especially those that are organized around social identity, whether we’re talking about gender or sexuality or race, to have really important in-group dialogues,” says Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor at Cornell University who research social media.


On the flip facet of Twitter’s immediacy, public, open nature and 280-character (as soon as 140-character) restrict is an ideal recipe for passions to run excessive – particularly anger.

“The anonymity of Twitter empowers people to take shots sometimes, but it is till one of the most effective ways to communicate with people with similar interests,” says Steve Phillips, a former basic supervisor of the New York Mets who now hosts a present on MLB Network Radio.

But there’s additionally the large, darkish a part of Twitter. This is the Twitter of Nazis, of demented trolls, of conspiracy theorists and of nation states funding huge networks to affect elections.

Jaime Longoria, supervisor of analysis and coaching for the nonprofit Disinfo Defense League, says Musk’s buy of Twitter jeopardizes a platform that many consultants imagine has carried out a greater job of reining in dangerous content material than its opponents.

“We’re watching and waiting,” Longoria says. “The Twitter we know may be over.”

In a sequence of tweets in 2018, then-CEO Jack Dorsey mentioned the corporate was dedicated to “collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”

Twitter, led by its belief and security staff, has labored to enhance issues. It enacted new insurance policies, added labels to false info, kicked off repeated violators of its guidelines in opposition to hate, inciting violence and different dangerous actions. In matches and begins, issues have began to enhance, a minimum of within the United States and Western Europe.

Outside Western democracies, although, not a lot has modified relating to clamping down on hate and misinformation.

“There’s a lot of hate on Twitter, especially directed at minorities. And so there’s always a constant battle to get Twitter to clamp down on hate speech, very often violent hate speech and fake news,” says Shoaib Daniyal, affiliate editor with the Indian information web site Scroll.

Musk’s free speech absolutism, Daniyal says, doesn’t make a lot sense in India as a result of there haven’t been many curbs on speech on the platform to start with.

“It’s fairly filled with hate anyway,” he says. “And Twitter hasn’t done a lot about it. So let’s see where it goes.” Which, given Musk’s mercurial nature, might be nearly any path in any respect.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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