Jan. 10, 2023
By Jude McElroy
Elon Musk is one of the richest people in the world. With a staggering net worth of $228 billion and now three different companies under his belt, Musk is extremely powerful in the business world. One of those companies is Twitter, the social media platform that Musk has been driving into the ground with seemingly every decision he makes.
His acquisition of Twitter started back in April 2022 with an offering of $44 billion. There was a lot of back and forth until Oct. 2022, when he fully acquired the company. And since then, things have gotten progressively worse.
The first major change Musk made to the platform was the process of verification. Before verification, marks were only given to people with a large enough following on Twitter and notability in some other way. People who typically received verification marks were celebrities, companies, influencers, journalists and politicians. The reason for verification was to prevent the spread of misinformation. However, Musk decided to change this. He wanted to make it so that anyone could get verified, but only by subscribing to Twitter’s subscription service Twitter Blue. This allowed people to impersonate companies and other important figures. This led to the situation with Eli Lilly and Company.
Eli Lilly and Company is a pharmaceutical company that is best known for its production of insulin. Insulin is a drug that helps in turning food turning into energy. It is mostly used for the treatment of diabetes. Someone made a Twitter account impersonating Eli Lilly, saying that insulin was now free. This led the company’s stock to drop by 4.37%, and billions came off of the company’s net worth. Even after the company formally apologized for what had happened, fake accounts were still popping up, saying that the price of other drugs Eli Lilly provided was dropping.
The fact that anyone with $8 and some time to kill could take billions away from a company is a huge problem.
The fact that anyone with $8 and some time to kill could take billions away from a company is a huge problem. It’s fine that Musk wanted to give a checkmark to those who paid for Blue, but the way it was implemented reflects a massive oversight.
Twitter is to be commended, though, for trying to fix the impersonation issue by adding an official marker and even a yellow checkmark for companies. Even though these changes got Twitter pretty much back to normal, it just complicates what used to be a simple system. Before, an account with a checkmark was almost always to be trusted. Now there is an extra level of digging that has to be done to make sure an account is legitimate.
Musk himself seemed to be on Twitter all of the time. My personal favorite tweet of his is the “Comedy is now legal on Twitter” tweet, which he posted on Oct. 28. This single tweet is so unbelievably ironic now because many people were still abusing the new verification system, this time to joke about Musk. These accounts were mostly harmless and with a quick glance, one could tell that it was very clearly fake. However, Musk really did not like these accounts, so he banned many of them.
He then said he was fine with parody accounts as long as the account made clear that it was a parody. Nonetheless, even accounts with “PARODY” in capital letters in their account name were banned. Musk would then ban people from changing the names of their Twitter accounts in an attempt to stop the impersonation.
The back end of Twitter was also not doing so hot. Thousands of employees were either fired or left. This led to a slowdown for users, and certain crucial services were shut down. The biggest one by far was the two-factor authentication system. 2fa, as it is often called, allows users to protect their accounts from hackers by putting in place a question that only the owner of the account should know or by connecting the account to a phone number. This system was down, though, because Twitter had laid off a whopping 3,700 employees, almost half of its workforce. Text messages that should be sent to users’ phones were either delayed by hours or not sent at all. Users were logging out of their accounts only not to be able to get back in because the system was completely busted.
Musk also made a poor decision in ending Twitter’s ban on former president Donald Trump’s account. Musk did so after publishing a poll on his Twitter account on Nov. 18, asking if he should end Trump’s ban, which had been in effect since January 2021. The poll ended with well over 15 million votes, and 51.8% of those votes were in favor of lifting the ban on Trump’s account. Just like that, on Nov. 19 Trump’s Twitter account was visible to the public.
ILLUSTRATION BY CHARLIE BENJAMIN
Trump announced on Truth Social, his own social media platform, that he would not be returning to Twitter, but the fact that Elon had the power to overturn a ban put in place after the Jan. 6 insurrection is mind-boggling, especially because of how out-of-the-blue the poll was. This is even stranger considering the fact that not even 10% of Twitter’s 237.8 million users participated in this poll, meaning that the data collected by the poll is problematic. Now to be fair, you can’t expect over 200 million people from all over the world to vote in one Twitter poll, but a decision like this should not have been made so frivolously.
Another major issue on Twitter recently is the rise of hate speech. Once Musk joined Twitter’s leadership, there was an uptick in antisemitism, homophobia and racism on the platform, according to the New York Times. The use of racist slurs doubled, the use of homophobic slurs went up by roughly 50% and antisemitic posts went up by 61%. The rise in antisemitism was most likely related to the unbanning of the account of Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. This news is massive, but it is important to note that Ye posted an antisemitic tweet, which led Musk to suspend his account on Dec. 2, only to allow him back on the platform 12 hours later.
After releasing a lot of restraints that kept people from spreading misinformation and hatred, Musk still banned Ye most likely because having someone with such a large following be that openly antisemitic was probably a big concern for advertisers.
After conducting a poll on his Twitter account, Musk announced on Dec. 20 his decision to step down as Twitter’s chief executive. He said he would not vacate the position until he finds the right successor. As he said he will still run some of Twitter’s key divisions, I doubt this will change much, but hopefully, his successor will be at least somewhat competent.
Personally, the biggest change I want to see reverted is the verification system. What was once an easy-to-understand icon next to any important accounts is now everywhere. Granted, it is pretty easy to tell if a user paid for the checkmark or not, and the yellow checkmark for companies has somewhat resolved the problem, but the current system still makes no sense.
Every decision the company makes is driving it further into the ground. Advertisers are dropping out, users are leaving the platform for Tumblr and even some of Twitter’s brand-new competitors and Musk still refuses to make necessary changes to the platform. Unfortunately, Twitter is not getting any better, and iIt is becoming increasingly clear that Musk does not care about Twitter beyond the couple billion more dollars it is putting in his pocket.