Exeter, Devon UK • Jul 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Comment Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover

Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover

In light of Elon Musk's recent investment, Harry Craig analyses the chaotic Twitter takeover so far.
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Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover

Pixabay- geralt/25259 images

In light of Elon Musk’s recent investment, Harry Craig analyses the chaotic Twitter takeover so far.

What do you do when you are the richest person in the world, with a net worth of US $219 billion, and an ego so fragile you have had Twitter spats with anyone who dares challenge you, ranging from cave rescuers in Thailand to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy? If you’re Elon Musk, you use that money to buy Twitter itself and blow that investment on the platform’s complete implosion.

This may be an exaggeration, although New York University Professor Scott Galloway predicted on the 13th of November that the entire Twitter site would “collapse within the next week”. This sent many of Twitter’s 396.5 million users, including myself, into a panic, with my avid tweeting now reduced to the modern-day equivalent of the band on the Titanic.

There are, however, more serious consequences that would result from Twitter’s collapse. The global news cycle is now almost entirely dependent on the site, and it is through this platform that the majority of journalists and politicians communicate. Indeed, 83% of young journalists said in September that Twitter was the most or second-most used site in their job.

Tweeting now reduced to the modern-day equivalent of the band on the Titanic.

For now, disruption on the site is mostly limited to minor inconveniences as Musk tinkers with functions like content moderation, two-factor authentication, and marketing. Most infamous has been Musk’s experimentation with Twitter’s blue tick function, which distinguishes verified accounts, such as celebrities and brands. He has rolled out a new scheme called Twitter Blue, in which users can pay US$8 to be verified, inadvertently releasing a wave of fake accounts masquerading as, for example, George Bush “missing killing Iraqis”. Perhaps the funniest was a fake account for insulin manufacturer Eli Lilly declaring “insulin is free” and costing the real company an estimated $15 billion.

Despite the comedic value of some of these fake accounts, brands were enraged, and multiple major companies including Audi have pulled their advertising from Twitter over concerns about Musk’s plans for content moderation. Self-declared “free speech absolutist” Musk has pledged to overhaul Twitter’s tight content regulations. This has been supported by many extreme right-wing accounts, with speculation that the likes of Donald Trump and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will be allowed to return to the platform. Permitting such content would be a dangerous move that would encourage the global rise of online extremism – in the days after Musk’s takeover, profiles tweeting racial slurs and Nazi imagery praised him.

Perhaps the funniest was a fake account for insulin manufacturer Eli Lilly declaring “insulin is free” and costing the real company an estimated $15 billion.

It’s not yet clear how Musk will reform Twitter’s content moderation, but indications can perhaps be seen with his sacking of approximately 50% of its global workforce of 7,500 in an apparent cost-saving measure. This has included the company’s human rights team, as well as an employee fired publicly on Twitter by Musk for challenging the billionaire’s assertions about the platform’s Android service, again exposing the billionaire’s fragile ego.

Despite its endemic issues, Twitter is a fundamental part of society and politics in 2022, and its loss would have huge repercussions. Users are already flocking to alternative platforms like Mastodon over fears Twitter’s time left may be short. Even if it survives, it risks becoming a safe house for extremists under Musk’s pursuit of free speech at any cost.

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