Twitter is worth saving

We can still save this thing.

Amid the implosion of one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges (I am far from the only one but I told you so) and the mid-term election vote counting, Twitter has become a bigger and more chaotic donnybrook under the leadership of Elon Musk. Many friends on the platform object to Musk’s policies and are searching for an alternative platform to go to, but I think we should all stay. It is better to save Twitter than to try to sink it.

Upset with Twitter’s policies, Musk seemingly trash-talked himself into buying the company for $44 billion, a terrible deal that he quickly started trying to back out of.

Now that he’s been forced to go through, he’s quickly trying to turn it around. One of the chief means he’s looking to make money is in selling the blue checkmarks that denote officiality for $8 per year. While there’s a sound logic to it — Stephen King is a millionaire and utilizes this platform to make money, why shouldn’t he pay a measly $8 per year — the results have been absolutely bonkers, with armies of would-be Elon Musks, George Washingtons and even Jesus Christ paying for a blue checkmark and creating outrageous content from newly “official” sources.

This chaos of renegade officialdom has got to be reined in first in order to save the platform. One of the chief appeals of using Twitter is that you can find first-source information quickly and know where it was actually coming from. His torpedoing of that in pursuit of $8 per year subscriptions undercuts a key strength and jeopardizes the ad revenue it needs.

The Internet was better in some ways when it was more of the Wild West. I didn’t want to watch Chechen rebels beheading Russian tank operators, but I was glad that no one was stopping people who did. The gruesome and the pornographic was a small price to pay for being able to read newspaper articles from every corner of the world, and knowing the news before the cable channels had it.

To a large degree, social media users agree to a certain level of curation and control that stops short of censorship. Pedophiles and murderers, hateful mobs, scam artists and criminals ought to be shut down, but the policing of “hate speech” and the folly of trying to filter conspiracy theorists has led to a large segment of otherwise decent users questioning the judgement of the online gatekeepers. Fully conceding the worst anyone has to say about Donald Trump and fully agreeing to his culpability in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, it was still a mistake to kick Trump off of Twitter. There was other outcome of that move than to be interjected into the partisan political divide that has cleaved public discourse in the U.S. Erring on the side of free speech, even for sleazy charlatans, is better keeping with the promise Twitter makes to its users.

The pendulum that’s been swinging on the management of Twitter needs to be stabilized; Elon Musk should hand over management of the platform to people better versed in its management. Musk as the face of Twitter invites more trolling for sport. Re-institute a meaningful verification strategy and get advertising dollars to return. Institute better policies that value free speech. Crack down on scam accounts (an early sticking point that Musk used to try to back out of the deal).

Twitter can be saved and is worth saving. If you rebuild it, they will come back.

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