As Musk buyout looms, Twitter searches for its soul | Home + Life + Health

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A poisonous cesspool. A lifeline. A finger on the world’s pulse. Twitter is all these items and extra to its over 229 million customers around the globe — politicians, journalists, activists, celebrities, weirdos and normies, cat and canine lovers and nearly anybody else with an web connection.

For Elon Musk, its final troll and maybe most prolific person whose buyout of the corporate is on more and more shaky floor, Twitter is a “de facto town square” in dire want of a libertarian makeover.

Whether and the way the takeover will occur, at this stage within the sport, is anybody’s guess. On Friday, Musk introduced that the deal is “on hold,” then tweeted that he was nonetheless “committed” to it. On Tuesday, the billionaire Tesla CEO mentioned he’d reverse the platform’s ban of former President Donald Trump if his buy goes via but in addition voiced assist for a brand new European Union regulation geared toward defending social media customers from dangerous content material. Twitter’s present CEO, in the meantime, fired two high managers on Thursday.

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It’s been a messy few weeks and just one factor appears certain: the turmoil will proceed for Twitter, inside and out of doors of the corporate.

“Twitter at its highest levels has always been chaos. It has always had intrigue and it has always had drama,” says Leslie Miley, a former Twitter engineering supervisor. “This,” he says, “is in Twitter’s DNA.”


From its 2007 debut as a scrappy “microblogging service” on the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Twitter has all the time punched above its weight.

At a time when its rivals rely their customers by the billions, it has stayed small, irritating Wall Street and making it simpler for Musk to swoop in with a suggestion its board couldn’t refuse.

But Twitter additionally wields unmatched affect on information, politics and society because of its public nature, its easy, largely text-based interface and its sense of chronological immediacy.

“It’s a potluck of pithy self-expression simmering with whimsy, narcissism, voyeurism, hucksterism, tedium and sometimes useful information,” Associated Press expertise author Michael Liedtke wrote in a 2009 story concerning the firm a number of months after it rejected a $500 million buyout from Facebook. Twitter had 27 workers on the time, and its hottest person was Barack Obama.

Today, the San Francisco icon employs 7,500 individuals around the globe. Obama remains to be its hottest account holder, adopted by pop stars Justin Bieber and Katy Perry (Musk is No. 6). Twitter’s rise to the mainstream might be chronicled via world occasions, as wars, terror assaults, the Arab Spring, the #metoo motion and different pivotal moments in our collective historical past performed out in actual time on the platform.

“Twitter often attracts thinkers. People who are thinking about things tend to be attracted to a text-based platform. And it’s full of journalists. So Twitter is both a reflection of and a driver of what people are thinking about,” says author, editor and OnlyFans creator Cathy Reisenwitz, who’s been on Twitter since 2010 and has over 18,000 followers.

These days, Reisenwitz tweets about politics, intercourse work, housing and land use points amongst many different issues. She finds it nice for locating individuals and concepts and having others uncover her writing and ideas. That’s why she’s stayed all these years, regardless of harassment and even demise threats she’s obtained on the platform.

Twitter customers in academia, in area of interest fields, these with quirky pursuits, subcultures small and massive, grassroots activists, researchers and a number of others flock to the platform. Why? Because at its finest, it guarantees an open, free alternate of info and concepts, the place information is shared, debated and questioned. Journalists, Reisenwitz recalled, have been among the many first to actually tackle Twitter en masse and make it what it’s in the present day.

“If I’m on Twitter, (almost) any journalist, no matter how big their platform was, if you said something interesting would respond to you and you could have a conversation about what they’d written and pretty real time,” Reisenwitz says. “And I just thought, this is amazing. Just whatever field you’re in, you can talk to the experts and ask them questions.”

And these subcultures — they’re formidable. There’s Black Twitter, feminist Twitter, baseball Twitter, Japanese cat Twitter, ER nurse Twitter and so forth.

“It’s enabled interest groups, especially those that are organized around social identity, whether we’re talking about gender or sexuality or race, to have really important in-group dialogues,” says Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor at Cornell University who research social media.

In a 2018 research on social media subcultures — Black Twitter, Asian American Twitter and feminist Twitter — the Knight Foundation discovered that they not solely helped problem top-down, typically problematic views of the communities but in addition affect wider media protection on vital points.

“So there’s this really interesting flow of information that’s not just top-down, mainstream media communicating to subcultures, but allowing various groups, in this case Black Twitter, to have really important, impactful conversations that the media took up and got disseminated to the wider public,” Duffy says.

Software engineer Cher Scarlett says that while Twitter is far from perfect — and, undeniably, home to harassment, hate speech and misinformation — it’s still a step above many platforms. That’s because Twitter has at least tried to address toxic content, she says, with improvements like Twitter Safety Mode, a product now being tested that would make it easier for users to stop harassment. Scarlett has faced repeated online abuse for her advocacy for women in the tech field.

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

On the flip side of Twitter’s immediacy, public, open nature and 280-character (once 140-character) limit is a perfect recipe for passions to run high — especially anger.

“When dealing with fans, emotions can get boiling, especially if you are sharing anything negative about their teams,” says Steve Phillips, a former general manager of the New York Mets who now hosts a show on MLB Network Radio. “The anonymity of Twitter empowers people to take shots sometimes, but it is till one of the most effective ways to communicate with people with similar interests.”

But it is not all baseball Twitter on the market. There’s additionally the large, scary, darkish a part of Twitter. This is the Twitter of Nazis, of demented trolls, of conspiracy theorists and of nation states funding huge networks to affect elections.

Jaime Longoria, supervisor of analysis and coaching for the Disinfo Defense League, a nonprofit which works with neighborhood organizations to struggle misinformation, says Musk’s buy of Twitter jeopardizes a platform that many consultants imagine has carried out a greater job of reining in dangerous content material than its opponents.

He worries Musk will chill out moderation guidelines that provided some safety in opposition to white supremacy, hate speech, threats of violence and harassment. He says he hopes he’s mistaken. “We’re watching and waiting,” Longoria says. “The Twitter we know may be over. I think Twitter as we have known it will cease to exist.”

In a collection of tweets in 2018, then-CEO Jack Dorsey mentioned the corporate was dedicated to “collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”

“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough,” he wrote.

Twitter, led by its belief and security crew, has labored to enhance issues. It enacted new insurance policies, added labels to false info, kicked off repeated violators of its guidelines in opposition to hate, inciting violence and different dangerous actions.

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, social media firms have gone via a reckoning over how Russia used their platforms to affect U.S. politics. In suits and begins, issues have began to enhance, no less than within the United States and Western Europe.

At its finest, Twitter connects individuals internationally to take part within the open alternate of concepts. Musk informed The Associated Press just lately that he needs Twitter to be “inclusive” and “where ideally most of America is on it and talking.” But this doesn’t have in mind the truth that most of Twitter’s person base is outdoors of the United States — and that Twitter seems very completely different in the remainder of the world, the place American party-line divisions and free speech arguments make little sense.

Outside Western democracies, as an illustration, customers say not a lot has modified in relation to clamping down on hate and misinformation.

“There’s a lot of hate on Twitter, especially directed at minorities. And so there’s always a constant battle to get Twitter to clamp down on hate speech, very often violent hate speech and fake news. And yeah, I think Twitter really does not really do enough for that,” says Shoaib Daniyal, affiliate editor with the Indian information web site Scroll.

“Twitter is almost like a central node, which feeds political activity out into TV channels and to journalists and WhatsApp groups.”

Musk’s free speech absolutism, Daniyal says, would not make a lot sense in India as a result of there haven’t been many curbs on speech on the platform to start with.

“It’s fairly filled with hate anyway,” he says. “And Twitter hasn’t done a lot about it. So let’s see where it goes.” Which, given Musk’s mercurial nature, could possibly be virtually any route in any respect.

Associated Press Writer David Klepper contributed to this story from Providence, Rhode Island.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed with out permission.

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