Discover more from The Planet
Elon Musk wants Twitter to be "warm and welcoming to all." But will that be the new Twitter?
The use of the N-word on Twitter jumped by roughly 500% in the 12 hours following the completion of Musk's Twitter deal, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI). This research organization examines social media material to forecast emerging dangers.
I also noted a lot of racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, or homophobic hate speech in many of yesterday's tweets. I can't state from my personal experience on Twitter that this is an increase compared to pre-Musk days since I usually try to avoid the dark corners of Twitter.
But even before the deal was closed, some remarkable changes were happening on Twitter. According to research from Memetica, a digital investigations firm, thousands of new accounts were created on the social media service in the 24 hours before Elon Musk closed his deal for Twitter on Thursday. These new accounts joined a more significant surge of new followers for some of the platform's most influential far-right accounts.
New followers for far-right figures
According to Memetica, the number of new followers Kari Lake regularly receives daily on her Twitter account increased by 600% to 18,000 in 24 hours. Ms. Lake is a Republican running for governor of Arizona. Over 3,100 of the 18,000 new followers were first-time users of Twitter.
Republican Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert garnered over 18,679 new followers in the previous day, a 1,200 percent increase above average, according to Memetica. A little more than half of those new followers were also Twitter newbies.
The findings are concerning, according to Ben Decker, chief executive of Memetica, who stated in the New York Times that many of the far-right figures that saw increases in supporters "are really well-known purveyors of disinformation, harassment, and hate."
Some users decided to leave Twitter
My personal experience is contrary to that of Boebert and Lake. In the 48 hours since Elon Musk closed the $44 billion deal on Twitter, I lost 700 followers. Usually, I gain nearly 100 followers daily, so it's safe to assume that 900 of my followers decided to leave Twitter in the past two days. It won't give Musk any sleepless nights, and I expect him to focus on the new Twitter followers he will gain from a different corner of the political spectrum than where most of my 900 progressive followers were found.
It seems to me that a shift in political preferences on Twitter is taking place since many of the bigger accounts I follow reported a significant loss of hundreds of followers in the first days after closing the deal. I also read many tweets and direct messages full of doubts about the future of Twitter.
Twitter must be '“warm and welcoming to all.”
Musk may not care too much about my followers' worries; he sends out tweets that hint at changes without giving a direction ("the bird is freed," "let the good times roll"). However, he does care about the advertisers on Twitter. It's interesting to read what he wrote to them. He noted that he bought Twitter to "…help humanity, whom I love. And I do so with humility, recognizing that failure in pursuing this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility." He also wrote: "…our platform must be warm and welcoming to all".
The platform's new owner then showed his warm and welcoming attitude to all by firing leading Twitter executives, including the CEO Parag Agrawal, the CFO, the senior legal and policy executive, and the general counsel.
I also missed his self-proclaimed humility when Musk made fun of firing these top executives in his tweets. Some newspapers fell for a prank by two men who had walked away from Twitter headquarters carrying cardboard boxes and pretending to have been fired. Musk enjoyed tweeting about this, ignoring the natural fear of many employees for more layoffs at Twitter.
Alternatives for Twitter
Like me, you may now wonder what will happen with Twitter and what moves to make. For me, it is too soon to decide what to do. I have enjoyed Twitter for some twelve years now, and although I am worried, I don't see a reason to leave yet. However, I am looking for alternatives to explore and develop since I don't like keeping all my eggs in one basket.
This evening I started to explore Mastodon, and I made an account (@Alex_Verbeek). The Washington Post reported that many Twitter users announced they were switching to Mastodon, and a few followers also recommended the platform to me. It is an open-source substitute that has long attempted to replace Twitter as a less toxic platform. According to Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko in the Washington Post, the company added 22,139 new users this past week, including 10,801 on the day after Musk took control. While Twitter has 237.8 million daily active users, the website has more than 380,000 monthly active users. I'll give it a try these weeks. If you make an account, you must approve a set of ground rules for the server you use. As an example, these were the ones I agreed to:
These rules give me hope to find people that want to help humanity. So I joined Mastodon with humility while recognizing that failure in pursuing my goal, despite my best efforts, is a very real possibility. And let me add that this platform seems warm and welcoming to all.
Perhaps Elon will follow me there.
If you got this far, please read this too:
I write this newsletter because I believe that together we can do better on this beautiful but fragile planet.
If you are a paying subscriber: thank you for your support!
If you are not, please consider supporting this initiative by taking a paid subscription.
And one from a year ago:
The back page: