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What happens if Twitter dies?

Written By: - Date published: 8:37 am, November 8th, 2022 - 95 comments
Categories: internet, Media, twitter, uncategorized - Tags:

It seems strange to type this but Twitter may be terminal.

The social media site that has become the go to for many years for journalists, politicians and any one interested in news especially breaking news may be on its death bed.

If this happens it can be traced back to Donald Trump, whose infamous banning for the promotion of an insurrection has caused some whose extreme views of the right of free speech as well as the rights of unfettered capitalism to take action.

Eion Musk, backed by a shady coalition of financiers, has since bought the platform and promised there would be greater free speech, essentially for right extremist groups to say what they want.  It appears that the structure of the deal will essentially wreck the platform.  It will either fold under the weight of debt and diminishing advertisement income as advertisers flee an increasingly hostile environment or Musk may sell before it does so.

Either way I doubt it will ever return to its former glory.

Twitter shows all that is good about the Internet, as well as all that is bad.

It has allowed for breaking news to be spread world wide, for nuance and detail to flesh out news stories.  It allowed for like minded groupings of people online to form and for friendships to develop.

It has also allowed for disinformation to be spread widely.  It accentuated anger and conflict, more temperate postings did not usually get the same attention.

It replaced blogs.  It is clear to me that in the heyday of the Standard, where intense debates involving the likes of Whaleoil and Cactus Kate as well as Standard authors used to be quite common.  Those debates and interactions have since moved onto twitter.

What Twitter came to resemble was a great big commons where information and disinformation was laid out for all to see.

Twitter’s actions in holding back Trump’s assault on democracy was a perfectly valid and much needed step to take.  Using your platform for the mass promulgation of fake news should not be tolerated.

When Musk announced his take over of Twitter he said:

Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”

But now that he is in control he has engaged in the sort of censorship which does not normally comply with usual understandings of the freedom of speech.  Like banning parody accounts:

Musk’s response appears to be a response to accounts that parody him.  He has the thickness of skin of Donald Trump.

It also reflects a general response by the right to parody.  Remember when Trump threw DOJ resources into attempts to find out who on twitter was impersonating Devon Nunes’ cow?

Musk’s attempts to improve profitability includes an attempt for tick holders to pay a monthly price for the benefit of doing so.  This has not gone down well.  He has responded by blaming activist groups for Twitter’s financial woes when clearly it is a case of spooked advertisers backing away.

And if you think that Musk is politically impartial he has just advocated for people to vote Republican.

This is like watching a slow motion train wreck.  I predict that Twitter will never be the same.

95 comments on “What happens if Twitter dies? ”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    Surely those with even half a brain, have either already deleted their Twitter account, or are seriously considering doing so.

    What an oaf Mr Musk has turned out to be–spring loaded revenge sackings at Twitter, and a union buster in his own businesses. Monopoly capitalist ownership of media demonstrates an adage from analogue days–“the freedom of the press belongs to those that own one…”

    • lprent 1.1

      I haven't deleted it, but I certainly don't notice it.

      For the last few years the twitter composite e-mails about tweets have been my main contact – and they have their own special folder that go into automatically (along with facebook and medium come-ons). They just clog my mailbox otherwise.

      I go into them for a quick scan when I have dead time. That is usually in the middle of the night when I wake up and need an anodyne flare of people saying nothing much of interest to put me to sleep.

      I didn't even realise that twitter has advertising – because I just ignore that.

      I have also found that google discover (which is on within chrome on the cellphone) is a lot better at finding articles that I might want to read.

  2. James Simpson 2

    Twitter has been a cesspit for as long as I can remember.

    People from every side of the political spectrum go on there and abuse each other all day every day. People that think it has (or has ever had) any value need their heads read.

    • tc 2.1

      It got alot worse as soon as Elon stated he wanted to buy twitter which speaks volumes about Musks' perceived values out there.

      Much like Rupert, it's all about the power of the platform as it never appeared smart financially (non profitable, full of debt) and probably why he's got the Saudi's with a strategic stake using their dark deep pockets.

      IMO Twitter can and probably will be replaced mickey, like mySpace was. Plenty of gifted engineers no longer at Zuck central etc sitting on the wealth their share options made for them feeling bad about the monsters they helped create. Funding would be the biggest challenge.

    • Phil 2.2

      People from every side of the political spectrum go on there and abuse each other all day every day.

      Meh. Not that different to an average day here.

      The comedy and creative arts scene has a vibrant and thriving Twitter community.

      Sports twitter has a wonderful mixture of intense fandom, incredible analytical thinking, and archival footage from bygone eras.

      • observer 2.2.1

        Yes, I'd agree overall. Some Twitter threads have been very funny, in fact non-political Twitter can be a gem.

        I'd miss that.

        • Sacha 2.2.1.1

          It is as good as the people you follow. Some brilliant people; some arseholes. Best human search engine I have ever been lucky enough to find.

          What will topple it is not the ethical/advertising tightrope but the cocky overlord firing all the engineers who keep it running.

  3. I have never had a Twitter account and never will.

    I think I saw the train wreck in a vision and stayed off the tracks completely.

  4. Tony Veitch 4

    The moment Musk completed the purchase of Twitter, I ceased to comment on the platform!

    'One small step for mankind . . ."

  5. tsmithfield 5

    What I find Twitter useful for is as a source of immediate information on topics I am interested in.

    The downside is that the information also has to be taken with a large grain of salt as it hasn't been fact-checked or verified. However, with that in mind, I still find it useful.

    I try and stay away from the abusive stuff as that is not my style, and not something I enjoy.

  6. Sabine 6

    Nothing will happen. No more then when myspace died, or when Facebook will die, or when Linkedin will die. People will move to a different service. Rinse repeat.

  7. Sanctuary 7

    If twitter dies Elon Musk loses 44 billion dollars, so there is that to look forward to.

    • tc 7.1

      Does he ? or do bankers and others as rarely do the billionaires tip their own cash in.

      One financial commentator, and he's not alone was puzzled how Elon made it work as he reckons Tesla's 80% pixie dust it's soooo overvalued. Interesting times.

      • Sacha 7.1.1

        He loses Tesla. And some non-US backers lose a few billion between them.

      • roblogic 7.1.2

        Yeah Elon could lose Tesla, he's loaded a pile of debt on to Twitter but he also tied up heaps of his Tesla shares with the transaction. There's a reason he tried to back out of his crazy overvalued offer.

        The previous owners evidently had some faith that their trajectory would become profitable in time, given the high engagement & celebrity involvement. But attempts to monetise all that activity have proven elusive. Elon has taken away any semblance of a carefully planned business model

        Perhaps he thought he could cut costs with no consequence, and find revenue by magic as he has done with his government funded ventures (scams) in the past.

        Perhaps he thought he could use Twitter as a huge marketing channel for his own crypto schemes, or pump & dump the shares.

        Turns out the "titan of business", "10x engineer", "billionaire playboy genius" is just another shabby amoral opportunist, who tripped over his own hubris.

    • roy cartland 7.2

      No way. He'll make any loss into a gain for himself, just watch. The deck is stacked, all his 'investments' are completely risk-free for him. Depressing, but you'll see.

  8. Corey Humm 8

    As someone whose main priority politically is regulating and breaking up big tech and ending data mining…isn't it glorious.

    Meta lost 70% of it's stock value. Compared to twitters 200 million global users there are 2 billion Facebook users plus a billion IG users. Plus Whatsapp and oculus. Mass lay offs coming.

    Amazon, Tesla, Twitter , Google stocks all in the absolute crapper and the BEAUTIFUL thing is because these billionaires refuse to pay tax their money is all in company stock so when company stock crashes so does their net worths. I <3 it

    Social media was a mistake. Algorithms have turned every aspect of life has become ugly and hateful, not just politics, rivalries between fans of sports teams, musicians, movie franchises book series it's all gone to the sewer.

    These companies have put billions of people in our own individual dimensions where our prejudices and bias are reinforced to the point everyone we disagree with is an enemy.

    My generation doesn't know much of what society was like pre social so much of it genuinely sees disagreement and political debate no matter how polite as a form of hate speech.

    If these stocks continue to crash and these companies go under…. Good. As long as TikTok owned by the Chinese (and banned in their country for a reason) is banned , maybe people can connect again and learn to agree to disagree on some issues.

    Social media radicalizes people. Everyone on it gets radicalized in some way. Its algorithms are designed to upset you and make you feel worthless while reinforcing your bias so you think everyone agrees with you.

    Social media going may just save the world, not to mention big tech and crypto are worse for the environment than big oil due to their server farms.

  9. Sanctuary 9

    "…Social media was a mistake…"

    Not so sure of Social Media is a mistake. However, giving control of it to the sociopathic crypto-fascist techno-libertarians who own the globalised corporations defintely is.

    Properly regulated social media should be an absolute boon for society – like it was in it's infancy, when it brought people together.

    • Maurice 9.1

      "Properly regulated social media should be an absolute boon for society"

      Ah! ….. but exactly whom or what will "properly" regulate?

      A Left or Right wing Government appointed 'regulator' ….. or perhaps a UN Agency?

      • Sanctuary 9.1.1

        We've never had issues as a society in the past with the principle that the government has a right to regulation of content, be it the chief censor or statutory media regulation bodies.

        Personally I would like to see social media companies treated like any other publishers and subject to the same libel and criminal laws as the traditional print and broadcast media. They are responsible for their content – see how quickly a few big libel payouts would change their behaviour.

        • Maurice 9.1.1.1

          A basic problem arises in that Social Media is Trans National and very mobile/nimble which evades individual Government reach and very difficult to subject to constrained local legislation.

          Only Trans National entities could regulate … but do not have the power or reach to effectively do so in a comprehensive manner. There would be veto in there somewhere!

    • theotherpat 9.2

      and together the people came….hunched over their screens in silent rooms……

    • lprent 9.3

      Properly regulated social media should be an absolute boon for society – like it was in it's infancy, when it brought people together.

      I must have missed that period. However I only really started with jumping on BBSes with dialup followed by usenet.

      Umm plus playing multi-user star trek on VT100s in Waikato's DEC 1170 back in 1979/1980 in the middle of the night. The chat dialog was full of surprised and spontaneous comments as someone would come out of warp with front-screens on full and ram me.

      • Sanctuary 9.3.1

        Facebook was enormous fun when it started, that is why it exploded. QED.

        • lprent 9.3.1.1

          I was rather blasé about facebook myself. Been there and done it on usenet and previous systems.

          It was kind of fun seeing the non-tech family and acquaintances coming online. It also reminded me about just how damn sensitive and outright lazy most people really are when challenged on their beliefs and opinions. Plus how little they had actually thought about the implications of their touted solutions and grizzles themselves.

          Twitter just felt like the dick comparison advertising forum by smart arses. A deft implied slander substituting for intelligence.

          Never got into it because, especially with the original short text, most participants never really got into the habit of explaining why I should click on their reference links.

          • roblogic 9.3.1.1.1

            Twitter is like a garden, it can be pleasant and full of goodness when used well, but utter garbage if not curated and sifted over time.

            There are some brilliant people on there, but (per the 80:20 rule) also a surplus of trolls, fools and scammers.

  10. riffer 10

    I will miss it, but it will be replaced with something else soon enough. You see, the platform isn't the participants. It just enables them. I have been, like many others, flirting with Mastodon. It's quiet, but I hope it picks up.

  11. Ad 11

    Why aren't there more social democrats running big tech?

    There is nothing inherently politically regressive about social media.

    On the contrary as Habermas implied it could be communicative utopia.

    Pretty weird after massive security bot breaches before US elections that such speech isn't Broadcast Commission regulated.

    Until social media is broadcast-regulated the pitiful instability is going to get worse and worse.

  12. SPC 13

    The former president has told his allies that he can’t leave his Twitter clone because he’s propping it up, and he doesn’t want a site so closely associated with his brand to collapse.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/11/07/trump-once-reconsidered-sticking-with-truth-social-now-hes-stuck/

  13. Andy 14

    Meanwhile, as Twitter users fiddle with their pronouns, the US war machine pumps money and arms into Ukraine and Haiti and thousands die

    • Sanctuary 14.1

      As long as lots more Russian soldiers than Ukrainian ones are dying I am pleased to see the US war machine doing some good for a change.

      • Andy 14.1.1

        I'm not happy about the US war machine killing anyone.

        But I guess we're heading off topic.

      • gsays 14.1.2

        ”As long as lots more Russian soldiers than Ukrainian ones are dying“

        During Bush War One, Bill Hicks quipped he was for the war but against the soldiers.

        His motive for saying it was comedy…

      • roblogic 14.1.3

        What a damnable waste of human potential. Putin is destroying Russia's future. It was already in demographic free-fall.

        The illusion of Russia being a modern G8 nation was founded on oil & gas. Now it's gone up in smoke

    • newsense 14.2

      Just imagine if they could load those extra letters onto a transport or load them into artillery!
      Give ‘em L sergeant! Mind the Ps and Qs private! E’s a good egg, captain!

  14. Stoops1 15

    How can twitter be on its deathbed when it has like 230 million daily active users?

  15. joe90 16

    And if you think that Musk is politically impartial he has just advocated for people to vote Republican

    And now he's backpedaling…

  16. Peter 17

    Asking "What happens if Twitter dies?" is like asking what happens when Trump wins the Presidential election.

    If Twitter dies other platforms will happen. If there is money to be made it will happen.

    The bit about Trump? One thing for sure, they'll all be lining up for pardons and clemency.

    All the legal wranglings Trump himself is involved in will come to nought as he'll block, overturn or stretch out anything against him. The only hope is that a bit of 'fast track' happens miraculously. Imagine him holding one of his massive rallies in jail!

  17. joe90 18

    What happens if Twitter dies?

    The former owner swings by and picks over the bones for anything useful?

    Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey might have something for you – Bluesky Social, a new “decentralized social network” that reportedly aims to reclaim user data. Dorsey stepped down as CEO of the social network he co-founded in 2006 in May 2022.

    https://www.geekmetaverse.com/jack-dorsey-unveils-bluesky-social-the-decentralized-twitter/

    • roblogic 18.1

      "Bluesky", is so abstract that there is no actual network yet, just a pile of theoretical protocols. @Jack is more interested in his crypto crap nowadays.

  18. AB 19

    I'm suspicious of 'free speech' warriors on the right. Mostly what interests them is maintaining the cultural and political dominance of the sort of speech they prefer. They become particularly enraged when their formerly hegemonic opinions start to experience some minor nibbling away at the edges. This minor nibbling is reviled as 'political correctness gone mad'.

    • newsense 19.1

      I mean we could be watching what the history books may be allowed to call a stage of American fascism. There is a concerted attack on the essential mechanics of a democratic state. The former president asked people to ‘find’ votes for him. Many of those who were not inclined to do that have been hounded out of their jobs. We’ve got thousands of election deniers getting jobs at a low level right through all levels of the system. We had the army turned out for a presidential photo op under the last presidency. The judiciary has had a concerted effort to flood their ranks with one side of politics. There’s a sympathy for dictators in Russia who push white nationalism and an anti-women, anti-sexual diversity ideas and elsewhere over democratic allies.
      We see the Supreme Court has been pushed away from the people’s polled opinions. They may not be a sufficient check on executive and legislative power. The wife of a long serving justice was in contact with the president’s chief of staff trying to push a coup det’at. It didn’t succeed, so they’re improving on it at every point. Plus a considerable number of people in the US believe there will be another civil war and have been arming themselves accordingly.

      So yeh that’s where your free speeches come from – or maybe as someone said it’s the final sulk of a fading power base and it’ll pass as every election there’s a panic about something. But it does rather feel like the culmination of decades of ‘conservative’ organising in many areas.

  19. Adrian Thornton 20

    " extreme views of the right of free speech"…you do understand that in most democratic countries including the USA, speech is is well covered in law…so hate/racist speech etc could and should be easily be moderated by those existing guidelines…what we don't need is extra, often murky layers on top of those laws (which is exactly what is happening)..especially when they are implemented by unelected boards on what is in effect are public forums.

    • Sanctuary 20.1

      But the problem is that since the end of the cold war the West has allowed itself to be persuaded by neo-liberal politicians and self-serving libertarian technology billionaires that we've always had an absolutist right to unfettered free speech – something that was carefully (if informally) controlled when western capitalists lived in mortal fear of the spread of the contagion of Soviet & Chinese communism.

      Since the collapse of communism the liberal democracies have essentially complacently allowed globalised and completely unregulated free speech, something quickly identified as an obvious weakness and massive propaganda opportunity by the weak, fearful and reactionary Russian successor state as a way to wage undeclared asymentric warfare and exploited to the max by Putin's troll farms (and all the rest). The result – Trumpism, the alternative facts news ecosystem of the US right, the rise of right wing populist culture war polticians – has been massively exacerbated by the parallel atomisation of society and celebration of narcissistic hyper-individualism.

      Any attmept now by nation states to put the genie back in the bottom has to contend with a phalanx of porn addicted fan bois worroed about losing access to pornhub, techo-libertarians, billionaire Randian fanatics, trolls of every description and well funded lobbyists. hence, short of an emergency like a war politcians are only glacially moving toward formal regulation using both existing and potentially new mechanisms.

      • Adrian Thornton 20.1.1

        Sanctury…you are so far down the rabbit hole that even the weasels won't be able to touch you….for what ever reason you seem determined to ignore the plain that by far the largest and most significant misinformation/disinformation on the planet comes from the West and Western allies…unfortunately now led in large part by once was considered Liberal media, now nothing more than mouthpeices for Western neo-imperialism.

        Researchers Find Massive Anti-Russian ‘Bot Army’
        "An Australian university has unearthed millions of Tweets by fake accounts pushing disinformation on the Ukraine war, Peter Cronau reports. The sample size dwarfs other studies of covert propaganda about the war on social media."

        "By aggregating account groups we find significant information flows from bot-like accounts to non-bot accounts with behaviour differing between sides. Pro-Russian non-bot accounts are most influential overall, with information flows to a variety of other account groups. No significant outward flows exist from pro-Ukrainian non-bot accounts, with significant flows from pro-Ukrainian bot accounts into pro-Ukrainian non-bot accounts."

        • Andy 20.1.1.1

          Adrian I think you are spot on here. We are not being told the truth about Ukraine in the MSM. Jeffrey Sachs just did an interview with Russell Brand on this very topic

      • roblogic 20.1.2

        That is the dark side of social media. But it also has huge potential to enhance democracy and call the powerful to account.

        Twitter and similar platforms give a voice to the voiceless, per the Arab Spring and other pro-democracy movements in places like China.

        This is why Musk's takeover of Twitter just in time for the US midterms is highly suspect. The people he fired were responsible for keeping the platform relatively open and free of the worst speech (Trump)

  20. Since he took over the company, he has already fired half of the staff and announced several changes, the most controversial being the one that will make us pay $8 a month to keep or put blue verification on our profile, a relevant change, since unverified accounts will lose visibility.

  21. Stuart Munro 22

    If Twitter dies:

    – a handful of less-clever-than-they-thought politicos will avoid trashing their careers

    – third rate journalistic hacks will need to find some other grounds for their reckons

    – a tiny proportion of the VRWC will find itself briefly unmusked

  22. weka 23

    I still have a twitter account. Musk is an uber fuckwit with a massive ego whose doing a lot of damage to the world, but are any of the big tech companies run by anyone else?

    I'm enjoying Mastodon. Different structure, different culture, more ethics in both. More conversational than confrontational. If you're in NZ join mastodon.nz if you want to follow the NZ accounts and content.

  23. All the stories are coming out now, you can't fire half of your staff in 1 week and still have a functioning company. The feed algorithm doesn't seem to be surfacing stuff like it used to — much more repetitive. There is a huge drop in the number of ads. It is only a matter of time before systems that require maintenance will crap out because the people that owned them have left. RIP twitterverse.

    I really enjoyed it – the rough and tumble of random discussions – the ability to express yourself honestly – the immediacy of being able to ratio politicians/ flunkies and their PR crap.

    I followed some major themes: Politics, Science, Religion, Philosophy, Photography, Economics, Tech Gossip, Tolkien, Culture … and learned a lot.

    It takes a while (months/years) to curate an interesting variety of accounts to follow and keep it fresh. But the most important tool for quality of life is block/mute/unfollow. "Do not feed the trolls" is a truism as old as Usenet. There are infinite bad takes out there, most of them are not worth engaging. Like anything, your personal wellbeing and boundaries should be of primary concern.

    I've blocked and reported dozens of gross & hateful accounts. It can be a real sewer. Probably written a few toxic tweets myself but I try to stay positive mostly.

    • Andy 24.1

      I can't recall the exact amount but Twitter is a company losing several million a week.

      I'm not sure how this qualifies as a "functioning company" by anyone's standards.

      In the early days, maybe by projecting on future growth, but Twitter has been around for a long time

  24. joe90 25

    heh

  25. A bit of a taste of what's going on over there

    And there's this absolutely searing article on Webworm by Hayden Donnell

  26. weka 27

    Otoh, some days twitter is good.

  27. joe90 28

    By Christmas it'll be Musk, assorted wingnuts, nazis, and a weird troupe of Muskateers.

  28. Mike the Lefty 29

    If/when Twitter dies – the world as we know it will not end.

    Perhaps a lot of people might get a life.

  29. Hanswurst 30

    The biggest problem with Twitter is that almost any idea (as opposed to reckons and throwaway opinions like this one) that can be expressed in 280 characters or fewer probably isn't worth expressing anyway.

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