Op-Ed: Will Twitter survive Elon Musk?

I joined Twitter in April 2007, a yr after its founding as a “microblogging platform.” I didn’t give rather a lot thought to my username. At first blush, Twitter appeared like a spot I shouldn’t be seen, like a strip membership, so I chosen an anonymous take care of that blended my heart establish and birthdate: @page88. I didn’t anticipate I’d be caught with it for 15 years and counting.

As soon as I found that Twitter contacts had been known as followers, I found the notion cult-y and unnerving. My first tweet, “Within the occasion that they observe, will I lead?” purchased no likes.

For two years, I principally ignored Twitter. Then, in 2009, on the South by Southwest tech conference, in Austin, I assumed I observed its goal. Conference insiders used it compulsively, notably to plan bar meetups. When in Rome. I sallied forth, looking for a companion to associate with me to see Metallica at a sixth Avenue membership. As soon as extra: nothing.

Then I gave a conference focus on — and I purchased what Twitter was really about.

The group throughout the room applauded generously for my presentation, nonetheless later I found they’d been live-tweeting it. Sometimes savagely. I was moping after I ran into David Carr, the late media critic who was then my colleague on the New York Cases, and he knowledgeable me to snort it off: “People who use Twitter are twits.”

Neither of us hand over it, though. I favored Twitter, even when it might very properly be chopping. More often than not, it was perceptive and humorous. Early on it appeared clear that people weren’t really tweeting about “what that they’d for lunch,” as a result of the eye-rolling articles had it. Instead, they’d been chipping off quips and finding out a model new means to not be a shrinking violet.

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I chugged alongside for just a few years, tweeting aimlessly about — I don’t really have in mind. Television reveals? Infants? Presumably I did tweet about lunch. When Dick Costolo turned Twitter’s chief authorities in 2010, he admitted to a crowd that he didn’t know what Twitter was for. I didn’t each.

At 11:11 p.m. on Monday, Costolo, who resigned from Twitter in 2015, tweeted: “Shoutout to the creator’s room at Silicon Valley for tonight’s wild episode.”

Costolo was referring to the flurry throughout the sudden sale of Twitter to Elon Musk, the self-titled “technoking” of Tesla, for $44 billion.

Referring to historic previous as if it’s a TV assortment dreamed up in a creator’s room is commonplace stuff for Twitter. The meme captures the widespread impression that world events are so speedy and dramatic now that they’ve merely purchased to be scripted.

Definitely, in a single day, Musk, the loose-cannon industrialist icon who — properly, the controversies are too fairly just a few to say nonetheless they embody wide-ranging allegations of horrifying racism — had swooped in like an Nineteen Eighties firm raider and snatched up the company.

On Monday, Erika D. Smith trenchantly noticed on this newspaper what many on Twitter concern most regarding the Musk takeover: Throughout the establish of “free speech” for right-wingers and trolls, Musk will silence the marginalized voices which may be Twitter’s soul.

“Take into consideration this the beginning of the highest of #BlackTwitter,” Smith wrote, “the group of a whole lot of hundreds that discovered discover ways to flip a nascent social media platform into an indispensable instrument for real-world activism, political vitality and alter.”

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Smith nailed it. Throughout the last six or seven years, Twitter established an indispensable motive for being, and racist feudalism isn’t it. At its best Twitter emboldens non-dominant subcultures — from socialists to the #bancars crowd to ex-Republicans — to create subversive commentary, method, solidarity.

When Twitter banned then-President Trump from the platform for inciting violence (and sabotaging democracy) on and spherical Jan. 6, 2021, these completely different clients would possibly tweet and thread with rather more verve and nuance, on account of the bully wasn’t sucking up all the air. Now some have predicted that Musk will carry @realDonaldTrump once more. (Trump, for his half, has talked about he’d refuse.)

Although the easiest and best makes use of of Twitter are at risk, fainting-couch despair is not going to be essential. Musk is certainly not a benevolent actor, nonetheless it’s attainable that he obtained’t be succesful to wreck Twitter with out wrecking the issue he really cares about: $TWTR.

Rick Wilson, creator and co-founder of the Lincoln Undertaking, tweeted, “Identify me crazy, nonetheless I’m not tearing my (remaining) hair out over this.”

He went on to string that “Daddy Musk,” for all his uninformed bloviating about “muh 1st Modification free speech,” is not going to be going to stop content material materials moderation at Twitter. And if Musk brings Trump once more, Wilson added, it would solely injury Trump’s political career by inserting his worst traits once more beneath klieg lights.

Definitely, Musk is unlikely to nix all content material materials moderation, lest the platform be overrun with smut identical to the subscription website OnlyFans. And if far-right voices come to pervade Twitter, and it “will get stuffed with Holocaust denial, racial revanchism, Bitcoin spam, and Russian propaganda, and Seb Gorka porn” (as Wilson locations it), the revenge shall be swift: “The market will devalue Twitter.”

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I was turning over Wilson’s observations after I laughed out loud at “Seb Gorka porn.” The phrase is basic Wilson and intensely Twitter. That’s why I favored it.

As long as dangerous and ridiculous true-life twits like Gorka — and Musk — could also be mercilessly satirized on Twitter, I’m staying.

Virginia Heffernan is a Wired journal columnist and host of the podcast “This Is Essential.”