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Why Elon Musk’s First Week As a Twitter Owner Is Flowing Users To Other Places?

It’s been a week since Elon Musk entered Twitter headquarters with a sink, announcing his official takeover of the company.

After having had some time to let the news of his $44 billion (about A$70 billion) purchase “settle in”, Twitter users are now wondering what he will do with the platform.

What will Musk do with Twitter?

After months of trying to renege on its commitment to buy the platform, and just before embarking on what appeared to be a lengthy, potentially embarrassing and costly lawsuit to enforce its original agreement, Twitter is now privately owned.

Wading through some of the early reactionary media pundits, we see that Musk has paid way too much for a platform that has not yet lived up to its business potential for investors and its social potential for users.

This likely explains some of his first moves since the acquisition, such as planning to charge users US$8 (adjusted by country) for a blue tick, and threatening to fire half of Twitter’s staff.

He has already fired previous CEO Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde and General Counsel Sean Edgett.

Is Twitter (more) becoming a garbage dump?

Musk’s intentions were perhaps best signaled with his first tweet after he bought the platform: “the bird is free”.

Before the purchase, one of his oft-tweeted critiques on Twitter was that there were too many restrictions on “freedom of speech,” and that moderation should be overhauled to unlock Twitter’s potential as a “de facto public town square.”

There’s no doubt that Musk is pretty good at social media performative statements, but we haven’t seen any actual changes in content moderation – let alone Musk’s utopian vision of a digital city square.

The chief twit has proposed the future appointment of “a content moderation board with widely divergent views” that would be tasked with making decisions about moderation and account recovery.

This is not a new idea. Meta has convened such a supervisory board since 2018, made up of former political leaders, human rights activists, academics and journalists. The board oversees substantive decisions and is known for opposing CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decisions, in particular his “indefinite” Facebook suspension of former US President Donald Trump following the riots over the construction of the US Capitol. .

It’s unclear whether a council would meet to discuss Musk’s suggestion to “reverse” the “permanent ban” Twitter imposed on Trump, or whether Musk would allow a board of directors to overturn his decisions.

Nevertheless, Musk’s suggestion of a moderation committee is a step back from his previously described “free speech absolutist” views on content moderation.

Many were concerned that his approach to moderation could fuel more hate speech on Twitter.

In the past week, coordinated troll accounts have tried to test the limits of a Musk-run Twitter by flooding the platform with racist comments. According to the US-based National Contagion Research Institute, N-word usage skyrocketed by more than 500% on Oct. 28. However, the head of security and integrity at Twitter Yoel Roth said many of the abusive tweets came from a small number of accounts.

Another study by researchers at Montclair State University found a huge spike in hateful terms leading up to Musk’s acquisition.

Both Roth and Musk have confirmed that “Twitter’s policy has not changed”. Rules for “hateful behavior” remain the same.

Musk remains a loose cannon

Perhaps even more concerning than troll responses is Musk’s decision to tweet and then delete a conspiracy theory about US house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi. We could dismiss this as Musk’s love of sh-tposting, but if the right to post disinformation and personal attacks is the kind of speech he wants to protect, it’s worth wondering what kind of public square he’s in for. has eyes.

Musk takes a technocratic approach to the social problems that arise from our use of online communication tools. It means that free access to technology removes “free speech” from its cultural and social context and makes it easily and readily available to everyone.

This is often not the case. That’s why we need content moderation and protection for the vulnerable and marginalized.

The other question is whether we want billionaires to have direct influence over our public squares. If so, how do we ensure transparency and the interests of users?

In a less bombastic report on the acquisition, Musk this week instructed Twitter to find more than $1 billion in annual infrastructure cost savings, reportedly due to cuts in cloud services and server space. These cuts put Twitter at risk of shutting down during busy periods, such as around election times.

This may be where Musk’s digital city square vision fails. For Twitter to resemble such a space, the infrastructure that supports it must hold up at the most crucial moments.

Where to go when you’re tired of Twitter?

While there’s no indication of a mass Twitter exodus so far, a number of users are moving elsewhere. Shortly after Musk took over Twitter, #TwitterMigration started trending. In the following week, microblogging platform Mastodon reportedly gained tens of thousands of followers.

Mastodon consists of independent, user-managed servers. Each server is owned, operated and moderated by its community and can also be made private. The downside is that servers cost money to run and if a server stops running, all content can be lost.

Twitter defectors have also moved to sites like Reddit, Tumblr, CounterSocial, LinkedIn, and Discord.

Of course, many will be waiting to see what Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey comes up with. While Dorsey retains a stake in Twitter, he has launched a decentralized social media network, Bluesky Social, which is now in beta testing.

Bluesky is committed to an open social networking protocol. This means that multiple social media networks can communicate with each other via an open standard.

If this experiment succeeds, it would be more than a competitor to Twitter. It would mean that users can easily switch shifts and take their content with them to other providers.

It would be a totally new user-centric model for social networking. And it could force traditional platforms to rethink their current data collection and targeted advertising practices. That just might be a platform takeover worth waiting for.

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