So there it is. One of the largest social media platforms is now under the ownership of one middle aged white man for a staggering $46.5 billion. So, what could possibly go wrong, eh?
Not quite sure, but one thing is for certain, Twitter will change. Will it become more gadget friendly, incorporating some elements from Facebook? Or will it be more open – and by that I mean open to all forms of society, including less desirable ones. To be honest, it’s bad enough as it is, so adding a few more right wing crazies isn’t really going to cause the platform to have some kind of paradigm shift.
Already, there are those who fear that in the spirit of Musk’s claim to be a proponent of free speech, we will see the return of a former US President right at the time when he is going to run for a second stint in the White House. If Trump is allowed back into the Twitter club, it will be a momentous occasion for the far right that they will milk all the way to 2024. And should Trump get back in, then we will definitely see all the others who have been either banned or restricted. Some you will know, some you will never had heard from, but all of them will be a potential danger to liberal democracy.
Now, to be fair to Musk, we are only speculating and one of the first things he has promised is to rid the platform of non-human accounts, or bots, as they are more commonly known. If he is able to do this, it will make Twitter look very different to how it looks today. How this can be achieved is beyond my knowledge, but I’m wondering if it will involve some kind of pay to play scenario where users may be required to pay for membership of the platform.
This would be unprecedented in the history of social media and, so far, any platform that has attempted to do this has failed miserably, so it would be a big ask if it can be achieved. It’s early days yet, so there are as many unknowns as there are knowns, and while Musk is often portrayed as having a Midas touch when it comes to ideas, in some ways, this is new ground for him and more uncertainties exist than even his Space X company will experience.
Personally, despite a lot of claims, I don’t believe many people will quit the platform. It will take a big moment for that to happen because at the end of the day, it doesn’t cost money for you to be there, so you really have no incentive to look elsewhere. A mass exodus would only happen if credible alternatives presented themselves and no matter what the trending may indicate, once popular platforms like MySpace or even Bebo are not the alternatives needed.
It will take a situation of it being no longer enjoyable for users, and Musk’s policy of releasing Twitter from its chains of rules and regulations may be that catalyst. He may want it to be a free shop of debate and opinion, but in the end most open forums become shouting houses and when people can’t be heard or are put down and ignored, they tend to grow weary and leave.
And of course, there is the worrying concept that just one person now owns a massive public forum. By itself, this is wholly undemocratic and even though it is a private venture after all, Musk is human and thus subject to envy, anger and retribution. Will he be able to sustain theses emotions as his new toy is being taken away from him from time to time?
Featured image by Geralt on Pixabay.