By Olivia Daly
Elon Musk - "Founder of Tesla", "CEO of SpaceX - one the first companies attempting to commercialise space travel", but, recently he is associated with "destroying Twitter"
But what’s all that about?
After months of going back and forth, and the eventual legal action against Musk for changing his mind about buying the company, he was officially named the Owner of Twitter on October 27th, 2022. However, after buying the company, Musk quickly flipped the platform on its head, causing outrage both on and off the social media outlet.
Supposedly, purchasing Twitter was Musk’s attempt “to help humanity”- his first course of action was the ‘democratisation’ of the platform. This means that users have fewer restrictions on what they can tweet about, playing into the ‘Freedom of Speech’ narrative. However, people have jumped to comment that less moderation could facilitate a platform to voice hateful speech and offensive content. Such concerns were heightened after Musk laid off employees working in content moderation; specifically the employee who oversaw the removal of Donald Trump’s account in January 2021 on the basis of “disseminating fake and false information”. Despite claiming this new Twitter policy is “freedom of speech not freedom of reach”, his disregard for the warranted ban on Trump is evident in his creation of a poll which offered to “Reinstate former President Trump’s account”. The results were a majority yes vote, and he followed the tweet with “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”, meaning ‘the voice of the people’. However, only 15 million people out of the 330 million users on Twitter, participated in the poll. Therefore this alleged ‘voice of the people’ is a falsified rendering created by Musk to optimise his image.
This brings me to the question at hand. Who determines what is considered “negative/hate comments”?
Musk's apparent dislike for advertising has called for measures such as the subscription service ‘Twitter Blue’ to be implemented. This is an attempt to remedy the lack of advertisements which make up 90 per cent of the platform's revenue. Advertisers had already begun pulling out of the site, protecting their “brand safety” in light of increasing hate speech appearing on the platform. This is where ‘Twitter Blue’ comes in, acting as a revised version of the Twitter verification program. Previously a blue tick verified a ‘notable figure’, but now this new system allows anyone who pays $8 a month to receive this coveted blue tick. Although, problems of impersonation have risen involving accounts of brands, celebrities and politicians. Particularly, an account imitating pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly tweeted, “we are excited to announce insulin is free now”. Hours went by before the tweet was taken down and despite the company apologising, the damage had already been done. This incident left the company in chaos as its stocks sank from $368 a share to $346 a share, erasing billions in their market cap. But, Musk justifies this new service by stating the current verification program is a “lords and & peasants system”, and hopes to make it less about status by giving “power to the people”.
NBC Reporter Ben Collins makes a valid point by saying “What verification means now: We've confirmed this person or company is who they say they are.” vs “What verification will mean in the future: I have $8”.
Is it “giving power to the people”? Or is it giving people the power to abuse the platform and its viewers?
Now, the most recent controversy from Musk’s new venture “Hardcore Twitter 2.0” evoked a “mass exodus” of employees and more importantly has users concerned about the survival of the platform. Musk gave employees until the 16th of November an ultimatum to either work “long hours at high intensity” and be “extremely hardcore” or resign with three months of severance. ‘Twitter 2.0’ according to Musk requires “exceptional performance” and will be “much more engineering-driven”.
This ultimatum was not received well.
Hundreds of Twitter employees have chosen to resign from the remaining 3,750. Such departures include key engineers who are known “for fixing bugs and preventing service outages”.
The most recent development has raised concerns for Twitter’s livelihood as the editor of the Verge, Alex Heath corroborates, “Hearing from multiple employees that the odds of Twitter breaking in the near future are very high”. What does this “mass exodus” mean for the livelihood of the platform?
All of these problems have caused significant damage to not only the reputation of the platform but its survival. However, all of them have one common denominator - Elon Musk. Will Elon Musk be the downfall of Twitter?
Only time will tell…
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