Elon Musk’s Twitter meltdown is better than any reality show

Two weeks after Twitter was taken over by its new owner, it finally appeared on some high profile accounts: Elon Musk’s new gray checkmark and an ‘official’ label under the pseudonyms of users. And so began a bright and shiny new era of verified accounts, equality for all on social media and finally, finally, copycats everywhere.

Of course. This is Musk, after all, and there’s nothing simple about the no-nonsense billionaire. The gray checkmarks are meant to be part of Musk’s grand plan to make verification — an official sign that you really are who you say you are — accessible to everyone. But the gray tiles barely lasted a few hours, disappearing as suddenly as they appeared. In an hour-long live audio chat on Twitter the same day, Musk called the labels an “aesthetic nightmare watching the Twitter feed.” Two days later, the tags reappeared Own Twitter pages and some major brands and publishers.

Along with the release of the gray checks, another part of Musk’s plan began: an offer that allows people who pay $8 a month for a Twitter Blue Subscription get a blue check indicating they have been verified. Unsurprisingly, scammers immediately jump at the opportunity to create fake, but “verified” accounts. Twitter later suspended the accounts after some of those accounts, posing as Eli Lilly and others, caused real confusion with the fake posts.

To end this week, Musk, who paid $44 billion for the social media network, reportedly told employees (remaining at 3,700 after laying off half the workforce last week) that bankruptcy is a possibility. This message was delivered even as he tried to attract advertisers who feared chaos.

So not a good start for Musk or Twitter.

Still, the confusing, whiplash-inducing mess, is a massive spectacle that, depending on your Twitter attachment, is either wildly entertaining or deeply depressing. We are witnessing the possible rapid explosion of one of the most influential social media platforms in the world, which has helped start revolutions (for the better) and transferred the fate of the presidential elections (For the worst). Although previous platforms like friend where Google Plus gone quietly, Twitter, in typical Musk style, may emerge with the roar of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch.

“It’s hard to see Twitter surviving this unless Musk steps back and puts an adult in charge,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at research firm Creative Strategies. “While I understand Musk’s need for change, going in and throwing it all out is something that rarely leads to success.”

Sudden events at Twitter, from laying off half the staff to false starts with gray checkmarks, create a level of unpredictability that’s terrifying for businesses but irresistible for anyone fascinated by the medium. of observing a collapse in real time. The “what happens next” factor would make any reality show producer jealous.

Musk – who tweeted his conflicting ideas on Twitter – telegraphed a Twitter that there are many more false starts and unpredictability to come. “Twitter is going to do a lot of stupid things in the coming months,” he wrote, hinting at more rapid changes. “We’ll keep what works and change what doesn’t.”

That won’t convince advertisers that it needs to stay. Twitter has lost money for two consecutive years and depends on ad sales, which make up most of its revenue.

I want to relax, eat some popcorn and watch the chaos. I’ve taken myself off of Twitter a lot over the last few years, mostly tweets CNET stories from my staff and send some retweets. But the political turmoil, the pandemic, and how easily I could revert to doom-scrolling dampened my enthusiasm to open the app any further. I’m as disconnected as ever from Twitter, a place I’ve pretty much inhabited with near-constant tweets for the past 13 years.

I suspect I’m not alone, and I can join the over 237 million people on Twitter who may be looking to skip to competing services like Mastodon if some of these changes continue. (Even my colleague Stephen Shankland think Mastodon is too complicated.) Musk still hasn’t made clear his stance on moderating toxic content, other than firing most of the team that oversees him. That didn’t help longtime Twitter executive Yael Roth, who has reassured advertisers and users since Musk’s takeover, called it quits on Twitter on Thursday. An increase in hate speech can trigger the exit of tired, frustrated, or simply annoyed users.

Also, if Musk prioritizes tweets for Twitter Blue followers and aggressively pushes the $8 monthly fee, more people might wash their hands of Twitter.

“As a result of adjustments to Twitter’s verification features, the constant back-and-forth over launch and product policies makes Twitter seem like it’s descending into anarchy,” said Rachel Foster Jones, an analyst at the research firm. which is GlobalData. “Fears about impersonation and misinformation can undermine the integrity of the platform.”

Twitter’s public relations team, which has been significantly reduced by the layoffs, did not respond to a request for comment.

As a journalist covering technology and digital media for over two decades, I cannot ignore Twitter as a company and a story. But keeping up with every new tweet or report is a full-time job. (Luckily for you, CNET has this skill Musk-Twitter timeline which records the latest developments.)

I also know what is at stake in the potential loss of Twitter, given its value as a public forum. Losing the platform that helped birth the Arab Spring and the #MeToo movement would be devastating to society.

But right now, Twitter is quickly becoming a widening abyss — and none of us can take our eyes off it.

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