Elon Musk has become the internet’s favorite new punching bag. Major news outlets have shared headlines about him for weeks, saying that Twitter lost half its advertisers since Musk’s takeover, or that the European Union is threatening to ban Twitter if Musk doesn’t improve moderation on the platform. Dozens of huge celebrities have announced one-by-one that they’re departing the app.
However, Musk’s failures as a businessman have masked the true damage that he is inflicting upon one of the internet’s most important social media platforms.
Twitter is spiraling into a cesspool of undemocratic, bigotry-fueled voices, which is especially impressive since the previous management had already done such a terrible job combating this issue.
A prime example of Twitter becoming a circus show controlled by the whims of one man can be seen in one of Musk’s first tweets since taking over.
Musk began his administration of Twitter with a poll asking respondents whether they wanted to allow impeached former President Donald Trump back onto Twitter. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” he said in Latin, roughly translating to “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Perhaps it is true that a poll of all Twitter users is the most democratic way Musk could be running Twitter. However, it’s important to note that many of those who follow Musk on Twitter and fervently engage with his posts are “Muskaboos,” die-hard fans who have been keeping up with Musk’s propositions since before his Twitter purchase and most likely would follow his every word.
Despite this clear advantage, the Trump reinstatement poll only passed with a simple majority of 52% to 48%.
In his most recent poll, Musk asked “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” 72% of voters responded yes to the question, pushing Musk to provide amnesty starting last week.
But Twitter, like other big tech companies in recent times, just cut its staff by hundreds. If those who were considered incompatible with Twitter’s guidelines are to be reintroduced to the platform, will Twitter’s moderation team be able to respond appropriately?
Musk’s actions follow libertarian thought, where everyone is free to say whatever they want with no consequences. But if that’s the case, why does Musk stifle his critics on Twitter with alleged shadowbans? Or why has Musk spent so much of his career in general silencing skeptics?
Musk can virtue signal all he wants about how democratic he is and how democratically he will run Twitter. The truth of the matter is that he does whatever he wants while providing some mirage of a voice to his — “Muskaboos” who would follow him off a cliff if he asked them to.
With Twitter in the hands of Musk, it’s really only a question of when the platform will eventually collapse.
You can’t run Twitter like you’ve run SpaceX or Tesla, Elon. When a platform’s use depends on its image, you need a more tactful approach to governing.