What Is Going On With Twitter?
Febuary 1st, 2023
Ever since Elon Musk became the CEO of Twitter less than a month ago, on October 27, there has been nothing but chaos for the infamous social media platform. From mass-firing employees to reinstating former president Donald Trump’s profile, is Musk ushering in a supposed era of “free speech” for Twitter or just quickening its collapse? This article will get you into the loop on everything going on.
Let’s start with the layoffs. It is estimated that Elon Musk fired nearly half of Twitter’s
workforce—3,700 employees—from a number of different departments. He fired a lot of these employees for criticizing him, whether publicly or in private chat groups. The employees who chose to stay behind are also at risk of losing their jobs. On November 15, Musk sent out an email to all remaining employees titled “A Fork in the Road.” In it, he linked a Google form, asking whether they wanted to continue working under his “hard core” conditions “to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0.” Kylie Robison, a reporter for Fortune Magazine, reported that roughly 75% “opted not to stay” after the email.
Along with losing considerable numbers of employees, Elon Musk also angered advertisers with his bizarre blue check episode. Musk decided to charge $8 to make any account verified with a blue check. This created a confusing mess with impersonator accounts making it increasingly difficult to find brands, organizations, and celebrities. Out of frustration, many advertisers soon pulled their ads from Twitter. Musk eventually stopped charging customers for the blue check, and for now, there are two forms of verification: the blue check and a gray “official” check.
On top of this, Musk stopped regulating hateful content on the social media app. The Center for Countering Digital Hate reported alarming jumps in the number of racial slurs used on Twitter. In an attempt to live up to his so-called “free speech absolutist” title, he has also reactivated former president Donald Trump’s account. Trump was initially removed from Twitter around the January 6 insurrection for violating Twitter’s Glorification of Violence Policy, but now after polling Twitter’s users, Musk has brought him back. Musk also reversed bans on right-wing professor Jordan Peterson, satirical news outlet Babylon Bee, congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Kanye West, who was removed for
Many of these critical changes to Twitter were a result of Elon Musk’s free speech agenda. For Musk, the definition of free speech has no limits. A lot of Americans, though, do not believe that violent rhetoric and hate speech should fit within that definition. This Twitter fiasco is nothing new. It is merely a manifestation of the United States’ ongoing challenges with political division and partisanship in the media. In many cases, the actors in this debate do not have any real principles. Elon Musk, for example, allowed free speech so long as users didn’t exercise this freedom to attack him.
While freedom of speech is essential to the functioning of democracy, there need to be
limitations for it to work the way it was intended. Free speech relies on mutual respect and honesty. Though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, there is a clear line. Whether deciding to “go DEFCON 3 on Jewish people” or perpetuating election denial, it should not be acceptable on Twitter or anywhere else. So, can Elon Musk deliver on his free speech utopia promise? No, not with his unrealistic ideas of free speech absolutism.