When Elon Musk first took over Twitter, a great number of users, somewhat hysterically in my opinion, proclaimed the doom of the platform.
He’s undeniably a divisive figure, and with Twitter a broadly liberal consensus, it’s not unsurprising that the takeover raised the ire of a lot of people. I’ll freely admit that I did not share this pessimism. At least not initially.
Then the firings happened. They were swift and ruthless, and it’s estimated that Musk has slashed around 80% of the global workforce. And since then, the platform has been riddled with issues.
Firstly, the changes to verification were an unmitigated disaster, allowing a platform for anybody to spread disinformation, provided they’re willing to pay the requisite tithes to ‘Daddy Musk’.
And whilst verification has sometimes been a vanity emblem, it also served an important role for identifying authentic government agencies, news platforms, and prevented people in the public eye from being impersonated.
Meanwhile, the platform has been critically unstable with NetBlocks, a cybersecurity observatory, reporting 11 major outages during 2023 (vs 8 in the entirety of 2022). Only recently, users were hit with the infamous Rate Limit Exceeded issue – a deliberate throttling of users’ engagement with the platform unless they were willing to pay the
ransom subscription fee.
So, discounting even the flagrant disregard of its now ex-employees, Twitter has allowed misinformation to flood the platform and reduced users’ ability to engage with it. Hardly the ‘town square’ of Musk’s imagination.
However, there was more. And this is the key reason I’ve finally decided to leave the platform. Moderation, or the lack thereof. Put simply, it’s completely gone to shit.
Most of us value free speech, but we also value necessary moderation. Abuse, malicious communications, and videos of extreme violence do not belong on a public-facing platform. And yet, since Musk took over, I’ve seen some of the most gratuitous violence I’ve ever witnessed on a mainstream social media platform. All without actually searching for it, I should add.
Musk claims he’s reduced hate speech on the platform, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. And speaking anecdotally, I never saw a man murdered in front of his family, or video footage like that of the Annecy knife attack in a children’s play park, prior to 2023. Again, without actively seeking this content out.
As with many readers of this blog, I spent 95% of my time on #BookTwitter – with the rest dedicated to a combination of cat memes and current affairs. And yet over the past 12 months, my feed has been packed with irrelevant content, an extraordinary amount of bots and, occasionally, gratuitous violence.
Let’s not delude ourselves – Twitter is a dying platform. The servers drop out like they’re running on dial-up internet, content curation has gone to the dogs, and moderation doesn’t appear to exist in any meaningful form.
Even advertisers have stayed away, with Twitter reporting a 50% drop in advertising revenue since Musk took over.
And so, after 3+ happy years on #BookTwitter, I deleted my account recently – and it’s not a platform I have any intention to return to in its current state.