by Barbara Ortutay
SAN FRANCISCO ( Associated Press) — A poisonous cesspool. a life line. One finger on the pulse of the world. Twitter is all these things and more to its more than 229 million users worldwide – politicians, journalists, activists, celebrities, the weirdo and the ideal, cat and dog lovers and just about anyone else with an internet connection.
For Elon Musk, its ultimate troll and perhaps most prolific user, whose buyout of the company lays on increasingly shaky ground, Twitter is a “real city square” in dire need of a liberal change.
No one has any idea whether the takeover will happen or not. On Friday, Musk announced that the deal is “on hold,” while tweeting that he was still “committed” to it. Earlier in the week, the CEO of billionaire Tesla said he would reverse President Donald Trump’s ban on the platform if the purchase goes through. On the same day, he also said that he supported a new EU law aimed at protecting social media users from harmful content. Meanwhile, Twitter’s current CEO fired two top managers on Thursday.
All that said, it’s been a messy few weeks for Twitter. One thing is certain: the turmoil inside and outside the company will continue.
“Twitter has always been chaos at its highest. There has always been intrigue and there has always been drama,” says Leslie Miley, a former Twitter engineering manager. “It,” he says, “is in Twitter’s DNA. “
‘What are people thinking about’
Starting in 2007 as a poor “microblogging service” in the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Twitter has always punched above its weight.
At a time when its rivals have counted its users in the billions, it remains small, frustrating Wall Street and making it easy for Musk to swoon with an offer his board can’t refuse.
But Twitter also makes an unmatched impact on news, politics, and society, thanks to its public nature, its simple, largely text-based interface, and sense of chronological urgency.
Associated Press technology writer Michael Lidtke wrote in a 2009 story about the company, “It’s a potluck of whimsy, self-expression, voyeurism, huxterism, tedium, and simmering with sometimes useful information.” Twitter had 27 employees at the time and its most popular user was Barack Obama.
Today, the San Francisco icon employs 7,500 people. Obama is still its most popular account holder, followed by pop stars Justin Bieber and Katy Perry (Musk is number 6). Twitter’s rise to the mainstream can be traced back to world events, wars, terror attacks, the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement and other important moments in our collective history as played out in real time on the platform.
“Twitter often attracts thinkers. People who are thinking about things are attracted to text-based platforms. And it’s full of journalists. So Twitter is a reflection of both and what people are thinking about.” has been a driver of it,” says writer, editor and OnlyFans creator Kathy Reisenwitz, who has been on Twitter since 2010 and has more than 18,000 followers.
She loves discovering people and ideas and letting others discover her writings and thoughts. This is the reason why she remained there for so many years despite the harassment and death threats she received on stage.
Academics, Twitter users in specific fields, those with quirky interests, subcultures small and large, grassroots activists, researchers and many others flock to the platform. Why? Because at its best, it promises an open, free exchange of facts and ideas, where knowledge is shared, debated and questioned.
And those subcultures—they’re formidable. There are Black Twitter, Feminist Twitter, Baseball Twitter, Japanese Cat Twitter, ER Nars Twitter, etc.
“It’s enabling interest groups, especially those organized around social identities, whether we’re talking about gender or sexuality or race, are really important group dialogues,” says Cornell University professor Brooke Erin Duffy. Media.
the dark side
On the other side of Twitter’s urgency, the public, open-mindedness and 280-character (once 140-character) limit is a perfect recipe for running passion high — especially anger.
“Twitter’s anonymity empowers people to take shots sometimes, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to communicate with people with similar interests,” says Steve Phillips, former New York Mets general manager. MLB Network Radio.
But Twitter also has a big, dark side. It is the Twitter of Nazis, of insane trolls, of conspiracy theorists and of nation-states that finance massive networks to influence elections.
Jaime Longoria, manager of research and training for the non-profit DisInfo Defense League, says Musk’s purchase of Twitter jeopardizes a platform that many experts believe has overtaken its competitors. In comparison, it has done a better job of reining in harmful materials.
“We’re watching and waiting,” Longoria says. “The Twitter we know may be over.”
In a series of tweets in 2018, then-CEO Jack Dorsey said the company was committed to “collective health, a civility of openness and public dialogue, and being publicly accountable to progress.”
Twitter has worked to make things better under the leadership of its trust and security team. It created new policies, added labels for false information, repeated violators of its rules against hate, inciting violence and other harmful activities. In the fit and early on, things are starting to improve, at least in the United States and Western Europe.
However, outside Western democracies, not much has changed in terms of cracking down on hate and misinformation.
“There is a lot of hate on Twitter, especially directed at minorities. And so there is always a constant battle to keep Twitter from cracking down on hate speech, often violent hate speech and fake news,” says Shoaib Daniyal, Associate Editor, Indian news website Scroll.
Daniels says, Musk’s freedom of expression has no meaning in India because initially there is no restriction on giving speeches on the stage.
“It’s filled with quite a bit of hate anyway,” he says. “And Twitter hasn’t done much about it. So let’s see where it goes.” Which, given Musk’s fickle nature, could go in almost any direction.
Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this story from Providence, Rhode Island.