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A toxic cesspool. A lifeline. But where is Twitter’s soul?

A poisonous cesspool. A lifeline. A finger on the world’s pulse. Twitter is all these items and extra to its over 217 million customers world wide — 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 city sq.” in dire want of a libertarian makeover.

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Whether or not and the way the takeover will occur is anybody’s guess. On Friday, Musk introduced that the deal is “on maintain,” whereas tweeting that he was nonetheless “dedicated” to it. Earlier within the week, the billionaire Tesla CEO stated he’d reverse the platform’s ban of President Donald Trump if his buy goes via. The identical day, he additionally stated he supported a brand new European Union legislation geared toward defending social media customers from dangerous content material. Twitter’s present CEO, in the meantime, fired two high managers on Thursday.

All that stated, It’s been a messy few weeks for Twitter. One factor is for certain: the turmoil will proceed, inside and outdoors of the corporate.

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


From its 2007 begin as a scrappy “microblogging service” on the South by Southwest Pageant in Austin, Texas, Twitter has at all times punched above its weight.

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

However Twitter additionally wields unequalled affect on information, politics and society due to 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 generally helpful data,” Related Press know-how author Michael Liedtke wrote in a 2009 story in regards to the firm. Twitter had 27 staff on the time, and its hottest person was Barack Obama.

At the moment, the San Francisco icon employs 7,500 folks. 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 will 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 typically attracts thinkers. People who find themselves occupied with issues are usually interested in a text-based platform. And it’s filled with journalists. So Twitter is each a mirrored image of and a driver of what persons are occupied with,” says author, editor and OnlyFans creator Cathy Reisenwitz, who’s been on Twitter since 2010 and has over 18,000 followers.

She finds it nice for locating folks and concepts and having others uncover her writing and ideas. That is why she’s stayed all these years, regardless of harassment and dying threats she’s obtained on the platform.

Twitter customers in academia, in area of interest fields, these with quirky pursuits, subcultures small and large, grassroots activists, researchers and a number of others flock to the platform. Why? As a result of at its finest, it guarantees an open, free change of information and concepts, the place information is shared, debated and questioned.

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

“It’s enabled curiosity teams, particularly these which might be organized round social id, whether or not we’re speaking about gender or sexuality or race, to have actually necessary in-group dialogues,” says Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor at Cornell College who research social media.


On the flip facet of Twitter’s immediacy, public, open nature and 280-character (as soon as 140-character) restrict is an ideal recipe for passions to run excessive — particularly anger.

“The anonymity of Twitter empowers folks to take photographs generally, however it’s until some of the efficient methods to speak with folks with related pursuits,” says Steve Phillips, a former basic supervisor of the New York Mets who now hosts a present on MLB Community Radio.

However there’s additionally the large, darkish a part of Twitter. That 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 nonprofit Disinfo Protection League, says Musk’s buy of Twitter jeopardizes a platform that many specialists consider has carried out a greater job of reining in dangerous content material than its opponents.

“We’re watching and ready,” Longoria says. “The Twitter we all know could also be over.”

In a collection of tweets in 2018, then-CEO Jack Dorsey stated the corporate was dedicated to “collective well being, openness, and civility of public dialog, and to carry ourselves publicly accountable in the direction of progress.”

Twitter, led by its belief and security staff, has labored to enhance issues. It enacted new insurance policies, added labels to false data, kicked off repeated violators of its guidelines towards hate, inciting violence and different dangerous actions. In suits and begins, issues have began to enhance, at the least in america and Western Europe.

Outdoors Western democracies, although, not a lot has modified with regards to clamping down on hate and misinformation.

“There’s a variety of hate on Twitter, particularly directed at minorities. And so there’s at all times a relentless battle to get Twitter to clamp down on hate speech, fairly often violent hate speech and faux information,” says Shoaib Daniyal, affiliate editor with the Indian information web site Scroll.

Musk’s free speech absolutism, Daniyal says, does 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 is pretty stuffed with hate anyway,” he says. “And Twitter hasn’t carried out loads about it. So let’s have a look at the place it goes.” Which, given Musk’s mercurial nature, could possibly be nearly any route in any respect.

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