As the Musk acquisition approaches, Twitter finds its soul.

Poisonous puddles. umbilical. Fingers on the pulse of the world. Twitter is all this and more for over 217 million users worldwide, including politicians, journalists, activists, celebrities, weirdos and normals, cat and dog lovers, and almost anyone with an internet connection.

For Elon Musk, the ultimate troll and perhaps the biggest user, whose takeovers are increasingly precarious, Twitter is a “virtually a town square” in desperate need of liberal reform.

At this stage of the game, anyone can guess whether and how it will take over. Musk tweeted that the deal was still “promise” after announcing that it was “pending” on Friday. Billionaire Tesla CEO on Tuesday said he would lift the platform’s former President Donald Trump ban once his purchase is complete, but he also expressed support for new European Union laws to protect social media users from harmful content.

It’s been a turbulent few weeks and one thing is for sure, the chaos will continue on Twitter, both inside and outside the company.

“Twitter at its highest level has always been chaos. Former Twitter Engineering Manager Leslie Miley said: “It’s in Twitter’s DNA,” he says.

‘What people think’

Ever since their debut as a lame “microblogging service” at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas in 2007, Twitter has always outperformed it.

It’s made it easier for rivals to thwart Wall Street at a time when it counts billions of users and for Musk to raid with an offer the board can’t refuse.

But Twitter’s open nature, simple, mostly text-based interface, and chronological immediacy make Twitter unparalleled influence on news, politics, and society.

In an article about the company that declined to take over for $500 million in 2009, Associated Press tech writer Michael Liedtke said in an article about the company “a pottruck of fickleness, narcissism, voyeurism, bluff, boredom, and sometimes creepy self-expression boiling with useful information.” said. on facebook. At the time, Twitter had 27 employees and the most popular user was Barack Obama.

Today, Icon of San Francisco employs 7,500 people worldwide. Obama remains the most popular account holder, followed by pop stars Justin Bieber and Katy Perry (Musk is #6). Twitter’s rise to the mainstream can be documented through world events as wars, terrorist attacks, the Arab Spring, the #metoo movement, and other pivotal moments in our collective history progress in real time on the platform.

“Twitter often attracts thinkers. People who think about things tend to be drawn to text-based platforms. And it’s full of reporters. So Twitter is both a reflection of what people think and a driver,” says writer, editor, and creator of OnlyFans, Cathy Reisenwitz. He started Twitter in 2010 and has over 18,000 followers.

These days, Reisenwitz tweets about politics, sex work, housing and land use issues. She likes to discover people and ideas, and to let others discover their writings and thoughts. That is why she has stayed on her platform for the past few years despite the harassment she has received and even the threat of her death.

Academia, niche Twitter users, people with quirky interests, subcultures large and small, grassroots activists, researchers and many others flock to the platform. why? Because, at best, it promises an open and free exchange of facts and ideas where knowledge is shared, debated and questioned. Reisenwitz recalls that the reporters were the first to fully embrace Twitter and make it what it is today.

Reisenwitz says, “If I were on Twitter, (almost) all journalists, regardless of platform size, would be able to respond to interesting content and have a real-time conversation about what they wrote.” And I thought this was amazing. No matter what field you are in, you can talk to the experts and ask questions.”

And that subculture – they are powerful. Black Twitter, Feminist Twitter, Baseball Twitter, Japanese Cat Twitter, Emergency Room Nurse Twitter and more.

Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor at Cornell University who studies society, said: “Intergroup conversations can be really important when interest groups, especially those organized around social identity, talk about gender, sexuality or race. There is,” he said. media.

In a 2018 study of social media subcultures such as Black Twitter, Asian American Twitter, and feminist Twitter, the Knight Foundation not only helped challenge the top-down, sometimes problematic, community perspective, but also contributed to extensive media coverage of important issues. found to have an impact.

“There’s a really interesting flow of information that not only allows top-down mainstream media to engage with the subculture, but also allows different groups (in this case, Black Twitter) to have some really important and influential conversations that the media has adopted and distributed. ,” says Duffy.

Software engineer Cher Scarlett says there’s no denying that Twitter is far from perfect and a place of harassment, hate speech and misinformation, but it’s still a step ahead of many platforms. That’s because Twitter has been working to at least address harmful content through improvements like Twitter Safe Mode, a product it’s currently testing to make it easier for users to stop bullying, she says. Scarlett has faced repeated abuse online for her advocacy for women in the tech world.

“I have been on Twitter since the beginning. A big part of my network is Twitter,” Scarlett says. “There really is nothing else like it.”

dark side

Contrary to Twitter’s immediacy, its open and open nature and its 280-character (140-character at a time) limit make it the perfect way to peak your passion, especially your anger.

Steve Phillips, former general manager of the New York Mets, who currently hosts the show on MLB Network Radio, said, “It can be emotional when dealing with fans, especially when they say negative things about their team.” Twitter sometimes gives people permission to take pictures, but until it becomes one of the most effective ways to connect with people with similar interests.”

But baseball twitter isn’t everything. Twitter also has a huge, scary and dark side. This is Nazis, mad trolls, conspiracy theorists, and a country’s Twitter that is funding large networks to influence elections.

Jaime Longoria, research and training manager for the Disinfo Defense League, a nonprofit that fights misinformation with community organizations, said Musk’s acquisition of Twitter jeopardizes a platform that many experts believe it has better contain harmful content than its competitors. .

He fears Musk will relax the rules of arbitration that provide protections against white supremacy, hate speech, threats of violence and harassment. He says he hopes he’s wrong. “We are watching,” Longoria said. “Twitter as we know it may be over. I think Twitter as we know it will no longer exist.”

In a series of tweets in 2018, then-CEO Jack Dorsey said the company is committed to “collective health, openness, respect for public dialogue, and public accountability for progress.”

“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bot and human manipulation, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We’re not proud of how people have utilized our services, or that we can’t fix it fast enough,” he wrote.

Led by the Trust & Safety team, Twitter worked to improve the situation. They enacted new policies, label misinformation, and repeatedly violated the rules against incitement to hate, violence and other harmful activities.

After the 2016 US presidential election, social media companies took a look at how Russia used their platforms to influence US politics. Things are starting to improve, at least in the US and Western Europe.

Twitter is at its best to connect people around the world so they can exchange ideas publicly. Musk said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that he wants Twitter to be “inclusive” and “ideally, the place where most Americans converse on Twitter.” However, this does not take into account the fact that the majority of Twitter’s user base is outside the United States, and the fact that Twitter looks very different in the rest of the world, where partisan divisions in the United States and freedom of speech claims make little sense.

Outside of Western democracies, for example, users say not much has changed when it comes to cracking down on hate and misinformation.

“There is a lot of hatred, especially against minorities, on Twitter. So there is a constant battle to get Twitter to crack down on hate speech, very often violent hate speech, and fake news. And yes, I don’t think Twitter is really good enough to do that,” said Shoaib Daniyal, Deputy Editor of Indian News website Scroll.

“Twitter is almost like a central node that provides political activity to TV channels and to journalists and WhatsApp groups.”

Daniyal says Musk’s freedom of expression absolutism doesn’t make much sense in India because there wasn’t much restraint on speeches on the platform from the start.

“It’s full of hate anyway,” he says. “And Twitter hasn’t done much about it. Then let’s see where we’re going.” Given Musk’s fickle nature, it could be in almost any direction.


Associated Press writer David Klepper wrote the story in Providence, Rhode Island.

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