What is the purpose of Twitter?

Submitted by John on Tue, 04/26/2022 - 11:44

Some people think Twitter is a megaphone. Its primary purpose is for shouting into. Whatever you want to say, it goes into the megaphone and out into the world. 

Some people think Twitter is a way to create and maintain a community. For checking up on one another, giving tips and advice, making space for others and overall community care. Somewhere where you can share memes with your friends, maybe a little more public than a group chat. 

People in the first group are very concerned about their free speech rights. They want to say whatever they want and not have any mechanisms in the platform, or the policies of the platform that would restrict their messages from being seen by anybody. 

No volume controls on the megaphones!

People in the second camp want restrictions! In the form of content moderation, and community norms. They want the ability to have their community space and talk to each other without someone coming along and shouting abusive invective at them. 

So yeah, now that Elon has put forth a bid to take Twitter private, what is Elon going to do? Is he going to save Twitter or ruin it?

I personally think Elon is the kind of guy who wants to crank up the volume on the megaphones. People who agree with him, that the megaphones need to be louder, are ecstatic. They seem to think that he's going to fix everything that is wrong with the platform. 

But the folks who come to Twitter for community do not want their communities invaded by abusive randos. If the abuse gets loud enough, they will leave. 

When I talk to folks who live in the GOP ecosystem, they seem to think that the only thing Twitter does, is seek out anything that is not the left wing consensus and just nukes it from orbit. On purpose, to silence conservatives. No other reason. 

This has not been my experience, by and large. Most of the banning I've seen has been ultimately because of harassment of minorities, or other straightforward violations of Twitter rules that are viewpoint neutral. 

Let's be honest. Nobody is getting kicked off Twitter because of their opinions on tax policy. But there are some people who REALLY want to be able to call other people racial and sexual slurs, without any consequences. If this is what "free speech" looks like to Elon Musk, the GOP and Fox News, and Elon cranks up that "free speech" knob, then I don't think people who are targets of those slurs are going to stick around.  

I don't think Musk is mentally capable of understanding the community aspect of Twitter. Twitter is performative shitposting to Elon Musk, as far as I can tell. (And hey, I admit that shitposting is fun, although I try to limit mine to jokes about the Canucks, mostly just for my friend <a href = "https://www.canspice.org/">Brad</a>.) [Edit: 😂 I'm leaving the link typo in!]

So yeah, I do think it's super likely that he's going to destroy the best parts of Twitter, at least for a large chunk of Twitter's users. When that happens, people are going to leave. 

Of course, this is assuming the sale goes through in the first place. He says he has funding, but the funding is based on mortgaging his share of Tesla... and Tesla stock has crashed on the news of the Twitter sale going through. So we'll see what happens next.