Musk Acquires Twitter, Fires Executives

The social platform beloved of the intellectual class is about to undergo radical change.

WaPo (“Elon Musk closes Twitter deal and fires top executives“):

Elon Musk became Twitter’s owner late Thursday as his $44 billion deal to take over the company officially closed, marking a new era for one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.

As one of his first moves, he fired several longtime top Twitter executives, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. One of those confirmed the deal was complete.

Chief executive Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and Vijaya Gadde, head of legal policy, trust, and safety, were let go, according to the people. Sean Edgett, the company’s general counsel, was also pushed out, one of the people said. The top executives were hastily escorted out of the company’s San Francisco headquarters.

Musk’s moves late Thursday signal his intentions to firmly put his stamp on Twitter. Musk has publicly criticized the company’s outgoing management over product decisions and content moderation, as well as saying he would restore former president Donald Trump’s account.

Still, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” Musk tweeted Thursday, in a post offering assurances to advertisers.

Late in the evening, he tweeted, “the bird is freed.”

The Atlantic‘s Charlie Warzel explains “How Elon Musk Could Actually Kill Twitter.”

Outside the company, power users are mulling plans to bail, and sharing a report that Twitter is already on life support. My timelines are full of earnest eulogies for the platform or fears that it will turn into a 4chan clone now that Musk is taking the reins. People are waxing nostalgic, sharing greatest-hits threads of good tweets. Dara Lind, a reporter, summed it up succinctly, noting that the whole thing has “big, big last-night-of-camp energy.”

[…]

Those I spoke with agreed that Musk likely couldn’t flip a proverbial switch to destroy the platform immediately. Any harebrained, Muskian idea for a new feature couldn’t get implemented overnight. One former senior employee I spoke with also argued that high-profile, controversial decisions (like the reinstatement of Donald Trump or Alex Jones) would certainly drive some people off the service but would be unlikely, on their own, to cause a mass exodus. They cited past mass-quit movements like #DeleteFacebook and #DeleteUber as historical analogues, suggesting that it’s pretty hard to get huge numbers of people to log off as part of a moral stand. That said, Twitter already appears to be hemorrhaging power users, and it’s unclear how much more the platform can take.

Given its massive scale and the lack of viable alternatives, I’m skeptical that enough people would leave to matter.

Musk has denied reports that he plans massive layoffs of technical staff and site moderators but Warzel counters,

“These sites—no matter how talented the engineering organization—are often held together by a series of fragile, legacy systems, the precise functioning of which is only truly known to a few people,” Jason Goldman, a member of Twitter’s early team, a former board member, and the company’s former vice president of product, told me. “Without even factoring in nefarious intent, it is easy to imagine scenarios where big mistakes happen because of the kind of disruption Twitter is about to endure. The exact nature of the mistake is impossible to predict, but the increased likelihood of a mistake happening is a reasonable assumption. And it’s more likely to be from some small error that compounds than it is from the large decisions that often end up in the spotlight.”

After listing five far-fetched scenarios, Warzel gets to what strikes me as the more real concern: that Musk’s anti-moderation ethos could just make the place unlivable.

Even under leadership that values moderation, Twitter isn’t exactly known for peace and harmony. There are numerous reasons for this. The tech journalist Ryan Broderick suggested in his newsletter that “Twitter has never been able to deal with the fact its users both hate using it and also hate each other,” and that the platform’s architecture causes such frequent context collapse and infighting that its least aggressive and obnoxious users tend to leave or just lurk. If Twitter is struggling with this now, imagine the impact if Musk does decide to turn the platform into a maximalist speech Thunderdome. The truth that the anti-“woke” warriors refuse to acknowledge is that the economic success of platforms depends on thoughtful, swift content moderation that strikes a balance between open dialogue and chaos. This morning, in a letter to advertisers in which he used the bloodless, platitudinal language of a veteran social-media executive, Musk wrote that Twitter cannot become a “free-for-all hellscape.”

Most of us understandably think of technology platforms in abstract terms. When tech titans like Musk or his text-message friends wonder what all those employees at Twitter are doing, they are, quite foolishly, looking at a social network as if it were a basic piece of machinery. “There’s often a supposition that sites like Twitter must work like a car; maybe they need some routine maintenance every year, but under the hood they mostly just work,” Goldman, the former Twitter VP, told me. But Twitter isn’t a car; it’s a living, breathing, dynamic entity.

Living, breathing things do one thing quite reliably: They eventually die, for all kinds of reasons. They die of natural causes, or because of direct harm. They die because of unforeseeable events. Musk very well could kill Twitter out of malice or hubris, or through calculated, boneheaded decisions. But one possibility seems more likely than others. If Twitter dies at the hands of this billionaire, the cause is likely to be tragically banal—neglect.

I think Musk is smart enough to keep the place staffed with competent tech people. But balancing free give-and-take and not allowing the site to be taken over by trolls or turned into a 4-chan clone is a harder undertaking.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DK says:

    I’m sad, I stocked up on popcorn to enjoy the weeping and knashing of teeth, but this news is being met with a whimper everywhere (except on Twitter, I assume). I guess this isn’t one of the vaunted kitchen table issues. Yet.

    I imagine Nancy and Chuck are sad this deal didn’t close in August, to have Trump’s tweets dominating news cycles every day till November 8. Oh well.

    1
  2. Tony W says:

    My 2009 Twitter account was deleted immediately upon news he was going to buy Twitter, but mostly I followed people from here and from other areas where they duplicated the same content.

    It was mostly just a cesspool of negativity and poorly considered opinions, with an occasional gem of brilliance.

    Don’t miss it a bit.

    1
  3. Jen says:

    Given its massive scale and the lack of viable alternatives, I’m skeptical that enough people would leave to matter.

    I’m not so sure about that. I do PR work, and I’ve seen a number of businesses move away from the platform. If some power users leave, there could well be a cascade effect that leaves Twitter to automated bots and Musk acolytes.

    The size and reach of Twitter and Facebook I think have conditioned us to think that they are too big to fail. We forget that there was a littered graveyard of platforms that came before them. Friendster and MySpace, anyone?

    5
  4. James Joyner says:

    @Tony W: I use Twitter sporadically because it can be a huge time suck. But I use it via personally curated lists on TweetDeck and there’s next to no cesspool that route.

    @Jen: Friendster and Myspace weren’t where journalists, academics, and politicos gathered for fifteen years.

    2
  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    Reportedly, twitter has been hemorrhaging power users for some time and that had become a top line concern for twitter execs. If twitter isn’t consistently profitable and losing its most dynamic users under its recent management, it is difficult to see how profitability will improve if the site becomes more toxic. Even if a Musk regime results in the return of Trump, Jones and the frauds and grifters, we’re far beyond measuring an internet companies value by the number of eyeballs.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    It doesn’t matter who gathered at twitter, at the end of the day the question is will businesses that advertise on the site continue to do so? Also Musk has stated that twitter needs to move beyond advertising revenue. I’m not sure what that means, but one revenue source would be requiring payment to post or view. I’m sure that many tweets will disappear when the poster needs to consider is it worth their money to comment or to read.

    2
  7. Scott says:

    I quit Twitter in January and deleted the account. Don’t miss it and I will not be rejoining. I don’t think there will be a Twitter thread discussing my absence.

    I think Musk is smart enough to keep the place staffed with competent tech people.

    But Musk just fired the entire leadership team. Assuming the leadership team actually impactfully led the company it really doesn’t matter whether the technically competent people are still there. It is how they react. Do they continue to work out of personal pride and desire? Or are they busy looking to move on? Do they go passive or engage in malicious obedience?

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    4
  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    I have 20k followers, my wife 60k. The question is where we can migrate to. Seriously. Any ideas?

    2
  9. Scott says:

    By most measures Twitter is unprofitable and has been for years. It is a bad investment.

    https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/TWTR/twitter/eps-earnings-per-share-diluted

    1
  10. Kathy says:

    Social media in general reminds me of the joke about the Army private who writes his congressman to complain about Army food.

    After long complaints that it is terrible, not fit for humans, that he’d be ashamed to feed it to a pig, he concludes by saying “And on top of that, the portions are too small.”

    Everyone hates it, and no one can get enough of it. It’s insane.

    6
  11. Jen says:

    @James Joyner:

    Friendster and Myspace weren’t where journalists, academics, and politicos gathered for fifteen years.

    It doesn’t matter where they gather if the server bills aren’t covered. It costs a lot of money to run a platform, and if businesses and high-profile people start peeling off, Twitter is in trouble.

    “Journalists, academics and politicos” aren’t going to pay what it will cost to support Twitter. The only way you could find a group with LESS money is if you added in public school teachers and social workers to that group.

    Without advertising dollars and the masses–one of which follows the other–it’s unsustainable.

    I’ve watched as people I know who were heavy users just stopped using it. I used to participate in multiple industry-specific Twitter chats–they died off years ago.

    7
  12. Tony W says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You have a lot of followers – which seems intuitively good, but my question: Does it add value? Does it make you money? Can that even be measured?

    I suspect it creates an intangible “connection” with readers, but I wonder how important that is. Will fewer people buy kidlit books because you’re not on Twitter? I suspect not. My guess is that most of your readers aren’t allowed within 100 feet of Twitter.

    There is the issue of imposters should you leave Twitter and create a vacuum, but that’s an issue for the lawyers.

    1
  13. Scott says:

    Here’s a question for folks out there. Trump has pushed Truth Social as an investment and a business. Is there any legal or fiduciary liability if he jumps back to Twitter? Can he be sued by investors for damages?

    6
  14. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Musk is here to save humanity.

    “I did it to try to help humanity, whom I love”.

    So there is that.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Tony W: Same question as Tony, with this addition – from what I understand your audiences are YA and below. Does a twitter presence add any value there whatsoever? Even my twenty-something relations don’t have twitter accounts, instead relying on Instagram and to some extent Tik Tok. My younger relations aren’t even aware of what Twitter is. Although they are familiar with the term, I’m not sure they understand it is a platform on its own.

    1
  16. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    How about setting up an OTB Social? At least long enough to bilk gullible investors.

    More seriously, there’s the attempt by Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia at a social network sans adds. WT Social

    1
  17. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: While it is true that Twitter’s audience is different than the other examples mentioned, I think they are still relevant. The history of online is rife with “unassailable” consumer lock-in that seems to shrivel and die overnight. Compuserve, AOL, whatever the Blackberry messaging service was called, and if I put my mind to it I could probably come up with a bunch more. Remember AIM? When all of these started their death spiral you could find all kinds of pundits who argued that there was nowhere else to go.

    I’m not making any predictions about Twitter. But I don’t put value their lock-in overly much.

  18. JohnMc says:

    Always in the last echelon, just discovered reading Twits on this damn phone. Have loved seeing virtually instant videos of Ukraine. Have found many enlightening thought-pieces (thank God for threadreader).

    Did not realize twitter had ads.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Sleeping Dog: @Jen: I don’t understand the business model. There are essentially no ads. Presumably, it’s about data collection but I don’t know what they’re gleaning from it.

    It’s possible to build something better than Twitter, I’m sure. But it’s really hard to build up the network that makes it worthwhile. Indeed, I was “on” Twitter for years before it was worth investing any time into it because it was mostly just crap.

  20. JohnSF says:

    EU enters the chat:

    Elon Musk:

    the bird is freed

    Thierry Breton:

    Hi @elonmusk
    In Europe, the bird will fly by our EU rules.

    7
  21. Argon says:

    The executives he fired are laughing all the way to the back. Having someone overpay for the company was the best possible outcome for them. Other employees? Not so much

    4
  22. Michael Cain says:

    Musk always seems to eventually think about his acquisitions as a platform for doing many things, regardless of the original stated goal. Yes, Tesla is an electric car company. But is becoming a company that makes “big” batteries and finds applications for them: grid storage and a growing number of consumer power applications come to mind. All he talked about when he bought SpaceX was going to Mars. In the meantime, SpaceX has revolutionized the medium-to-heavy launch business. NASA recently released the figures for where they spend their money. JPL at Caltech is still #1, but SpaceX has passed Boeing for #2.

    A good question to ask is what does he think he can do differently with/at Twitter that the company wasn’t doing before, that could be useful elsewhere. Flexible and robust reader-side moderation? Micropayments for content?

    2
  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I have a twitter account and I follow a few people but I have never commented on it and feel no need to. If it ever becomes a pay for service I will drop it like a hot potato.

  24. Jen says:

    @James Joyner:

    There are essentially no ads.

    Via Reuters:

    Musk wants Twitter to be ‘most respected advertising platform’

    Ad sales accounted for more than 90% of Twitter’s revenue in the second quarter, and Reuters reported earlier this week that the company was struggling to keep its most active users who are vital to the business.

    2
  25. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Same here, except I don’t officially “follow” anyone. There are a few people I read almost every day.

    I started the account in 2009 and never Tweeted anything but my website address.

  26. DAllenABQ says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Truth Social?

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Cain: speaking as someone working in the smart vehicle area, Tesla is about as sensible as the players in cryptocurrency when it comes to “developing new technology.” Namely, they don’t. A lot of hype, and little else. The companies coming up with the actual technology are companies like Bosch, Honda, Apple, and Here. They’re quiet, do the R&D in the background, then come out with additional driver services which they offer on the next model–for a price.

    (Musk may poo-poo the use of patents as much as he wants, but if he ends up infringing someone else’s patent he’s still going to find Tesla will be on the legal hook.(

    2
  28. Richard Gardner says:

    I mostly use Twitter for public safety breaking events in my area. Road closures, fires, earthquakes, etc. I also follow a couple of new reporters. None of the chattering class (present company excepted).

  29. Modulo Myself says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Yup. A couple weeks ago when there was a post on Axios I took a look at the actual site and past the news was a lot of corporate-wellness things in their house style–I.e. the takeaway on why it’s good to have friends–all of which seems to be an attempt to sell subscription content to big organizations who want to offer some of mental-health perk.

    I’m guessing there are options for twitter tracking onto wellness and happiness and which have nothing to do with freeing Trump and banning bans on the blackpilled.

  30. just nutha says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Ask your followers? Of course, that will mean needing to read their comments, but I assume you two probably do that now.

    1
  31. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I would assume they are able to supply very precise information to advertisers about what and who someone engages with. For example, if your twitter feed indicates that you are an active and fervent fan of QAnon or Trump, that would be worth more than just running a commercial on Fox News. Yes, a useful percentage of Fox News viewers are gullible and easily scammed, but many may just have it on in the background or may have no funds available to fleece. On the other hand, an active Twitter feed ties to a specific person. Coupled with other easily available sources, they know income, address, age, marital status, if you have kids, and how many and their ages, as well as how much money you spend on various types of items… the list is nearly endless. On top of that, if you read or, better yet, liked a post about the libruls driving us into economic doom, that could make you the ideal target for gold coins or crypto. Within minutes, an account you follow that you think is a real person but is actually a bot could tweet something about an interesting deal in gold coins, maybe just seemingly in passing. Or, perhaps more easily, just have all that crap show up in your browser ads.

    Outside of politics you have people who are gullible for supplements, or crystals, or beauty products. The list is really endless. But I imagine it is worth a fortune to the scammers that this one particular person is active, excitable, gullible, has a specific net worth and income, and can be convinced to spend $X on nonsense.

  32. Mimai says:

    I’ve never been a twitter user, so I’ve got no skin in this game. No judgment, just no interest.

    For those that are not me, I wonder what your specific predictions are. Eg, in 3 months, twitter will experience an X% drop in users and/or an X% drop in stock price.

    ps, My Canadian girlfriend tells me that Elon Musk will be replacing Vijaya Gadde (previous head of legal, policy, and trust) with Rod Dreher.

  33. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    I suspect that ads on twitter are like those on tumblr and Blogger, the posters that have large followings have ads, while a tweeter with hundreds or thousands on followers may have few or none. Even on YouTube, which is aggressive with ad placement, if you watch a vid from some poster who is obscure and is happy with views rather than revenue, you’re quite likely not to see an ad.

  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Tony W:
    Here’s what Twitter did. We are pitching a TV series. So we shot a trailer. With virtually no advertising, Twitter got that trailer to 250K YouTube views and about 15 M Tik Tok views. We then use that stat to impress execs we’re pitching. And it worked to get us entree. So yes, it adds value.

    But an unmoderated Twitter quickly becomes Porn Hub with Nazis, which is not a place for either of us to talk to kids, teachers, librarians, or other writers. No advertiser wants their products on the kind of platform, and that certainly includes us.

    Musk is to social media as Liz Truss was the British economy. Libertarianism in anyone over the age of say, 25, is a personality disorder.

    8
  35. CSK says:

    I just looked this up, and apparently Trump had 88.7 million followers on Twitter when he was kicked off it, and 34 million Facebook fans when he got booted from there.

    He has 3.9 million followers on TruthSocial. That has to gall him.

  36. Jay L Gischer says:

    Elon means it when he says he wants to help humanity. I believe it. I would take it to the bank that he believes it, he means it. Whether he is successful is another matter. He’s been successful with Tesla and SpaceX, though.

    AND,

    Musk [is] quite foolishly, looking at a social network as if it were a basic piece of machinery.

    I think this is spot on, except for the “basic” part. It’s a very complicated machine. Elon does not understand people very well at all. This could be a big, big problem for Twitter. I have no dog in that hunt, really. I don’t care.

    I expect that the moment he articulates some terms of service, and boots some right-winger off for violation of them, he will be confused and appalled at the charges of bias he faces. For instance.

    One other thing I noted:

    “These sites—no matter how talented the engineering organization—are often held together by a series of fragile, legacy systems, the precise functioning of which is only truly known to a few people,” [said] Jason Goldman

    Truer words have never been spoken. Musk operates on the principle of “If you can’t prove that it can’t be done, then you must operate as if it can be done and try to do it, at warp factor 9” There is likely to be disruptions, things not working, big disruptions.

    This may sound weird to you, but it’s one of the things I like about how Musk operates … no fear at all. Falcons regularly blew up or crashed on tests until they didn’t. I expect problems, but I also expect he will get things to work the way he thinks they should work, and to make that transition faster than anyone expects.

    But will that be a good thing for humanity? My money is on no. Context collapse pretty much dooms all general-purpose social media.

    1
  37. Tony W says:

    @Michael Reynolds: That is powerful, it sounds like TikTok might be the new Twitter for y’all, since Twitter’s value is to drive folks over to another platform?

    1
  38. JKB says:

    @James Joyner: Friendster and Myspace weren’t where journalists, academics, and politicos gathered for fifteen years.

    Recently, another site pointed out that the kids were all migrating to the video short sites. But Twitter’s core user are the “word people” like you describe. Quick pseudo-pithy comments and abuse by people who have a face for text and not time for making video shorts.

    Twitter has live up to its root word

    Twit
    To vex by bringing to notice, or reminding of, a fault, defect, misfortune, or the like; to revile; to reproach; to upbraid; to taunt; as, he twitted his friend of falsehood.
    [1913 Webster]

    And has been quite well used to reinstate the medieval hue and cry, but now the call being made by whomever can get the mob going.

    Hue and cry (Law), a loud outcry with which felons were anciently pursued, and which all who heard it were obliged to take up, joining in the pursuit till the malefactor was taken; in later usage, a written proclamation issued on the escape of a felon from prison, requiring all persons to aid in retaking him. –Burrill.
    [1913 Webster]

    I don’t see journalists, academics, and politicos giving up their best method to harass and take down rivals anytime soon. Some will make noise like elderly rockers leaving Spotify then quietly sneak back on the platform to stay in the game.

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: except I don’t officially “follow” anyone.

    Neither do I. TBH, I have no idea how to, same for commenting. When I say I “follow a few people,” I have their twitter feeds bookmarked.

    1
  40. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    No, you do not understand. (What a shock.)

    If you are the CEO of Nike you cannot have your ads running next to the kind of racist trash you might enjoy. It’s not even a question, you cannot. Full stop. Your sort of person is a modern day leper. No movie studio, no streamer, no car maker, no airline, no restaurant, no perfume brand, no pop band, no company, not one, can be sat next to racist and misogynist trash. They are in businesses that need to appeal not repel. And that’s not even getting into the violent porn, the kiddie porn, etcetera.

    People like you are bad for business. Capitalism cannot live in your world. Capitalism by its nature wants to include (profit!), not exclude (loss). Musk will either bring back and likely increase moderation or he’ll have to sell Twitter for a fraction of what he paid.

    5
  41. Andy says:

    I have my popcorn ready.

    1
  42. inhumans99 says:

    As a non-Twitter user who should not care, I still hope Musk reconsiders his desire to let Trump back on. Trump is a guy who nearly 2 years later is still whining about a stolen election, and he considers Putin one of his idols, a manly-man in Trump’s eyes that has had to resort to threatening to nuke the entire world into oblivion on what seems like a near daily basis, because things are not going so well for him in Ukraine.

    So Trump whines about losing an election and picked a world leader to admire of a country that folks are a bit less scared of now that we have seen what happen to the Russian military when folks fight back and are not just torn to pieces by Russian copters and barrel bombs raining down on them, I really feel that all but the die-hard Trump acolytes are not interested in Trump rants on the 2020 election and Putin, and most folks feel that Trump on Twitter is so yesterday and Trump will not help Musk latch on to an entire new base of Twitter users.

    I am probably wrong, but Musk’s plans for Twitter are just more validation to me that I was correct to not have become an active Twitter user in the first place.

  43. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I use Twitter sporadically because it can be a huge time suck. But I use it via personally curated lists on TweetDeck and there’s next to no cesspool that route.

    Is there an explainer somewhere for how this works and how to set that up?

    @Michael Cain:

    That’s basically my take as well.

    @grumpy realist:

    Promoting these technologies is a good excuse for patent reform. We don’t want patent trolls and hoarding to slow down innovation.

  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    On the bright side, between the three of them Musk will be shelling out close to $200 million in termination payments.

    5
  45. Sleeping Dog says:

    @inhumans99:

    It would be best if Musk keeps TFG off twitter, I’d certainly enjoy the spectacle of Musk forcing Trump to publicly beg to be let back in.

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Thanx for that, now I’ll smile the rest of the day.

    1
  47. Andy says:

    @Mimai:

    I don’t have skin in this game either. I can see ways in which Twitter could be useful and used it in the distant past when it was a lot different.

    Twitter is THE medium for the press and many other professional circles. Getting banned from Twitter if you’re in those professions is near to a career death sentence. So what I’ll be looking for as far as predictions go is what happens with this cohort of users since it has become so central to their professions.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Maybe wait and see what happens instead of assuming all the worry-worts and dire predictions are correct? Deleting your accounts is quick and easy if things go bad.

  48. James Joyner says:

    @Andy:

    Is there an explainer somewhere for how this works and how to set that up?

    Hard to do without embedding a lot of screenshots and the like but here’s a recent piece from Wired on how TweetDeck works.

    Detailed instructions from Twitter (which bought it in 2011) on how it works.

    Here are my various self-created lists.

    From left to right, my columns are Notifications (@s, retweets, and the like), Direct Messages, Top Reads list, Foreign Policy list, and various sports and special interest lists. Depending on the size of the screen, I have to scroll to see anything beyond FP, which is fine as they’re ancillary unless it’s gameday or I’m looking for something niche. It looks like this:

    //huge screenshot//

    1
  49. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Thanks, I really appreciate that info.

    1
  50. gVOR08 says:

    Only marginally on topic, but there is some discussion of how there are advertisers on Twitter. As part of my know-thy-enemy reading I see Marginal Revolution and a few other RW sites are all a twitter (sorry) over PayPal fining people for violating terms of service with harmful and false content. The outrage expressed in MR comments would seem to foreshadow some intent to push harmful and false content. But can someone answer a question for me, a codger who uses PayPal like once a year. How do you even have content on PayPal? Does whatever your selling count as content?

  51. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    Deleting an account(s) totaling 100,000 followers is not at all easy. It means closing off contact with actual, real people, isolating them and us.

    Here’s the problem. I post a Tweet. A bunch of kids read it, then start searching through the other responses to seek out people who share an interest in my work. And among the responses they see gore, or hate, or kiddie porn.

    Or, my wife posts about one of her books, it’s liked by people who may be minors, on-line pedophiles can then assemble a mailing list of children and start sending them dick pics.

    Or, some creep posts a racist rant and ‘ats’ me, so that when someone innocently looks me up by my handle, they find that crap.

    I have a large number of trans kids as followers, those kids can be targeted by hate groups, dog-piled by hate groups. Ditto gays, Blacks, Jews, etc…

    And the way all this looks to newb parents is that I/we are exposing their kids to stuff they should not be exposed to.

    If that kind of thing happens now we report it to Twitter and they’ll take down the offending account. Letting creeps run free on Twitter is like letting rapists into the YWCA, or child abductors onto playgrounds.

    4
  52. just nutha says:

    @Mimai: That makes sense. Lots of people are saying that Dreher may be the foremost legal mind of this, or any other modern era century. His policy analysis chops are clearly above reproach in both analysis and implementation. And who do people trust more than him? Really, who?

  53. just nutha says:

    @CSK: Sure. But if he hadn’t been the Prez, he wouldn’t have had 88 million followers. How many followers did Donald Trump, notoriety whore, have?

  54. just nutha says:

    @JKB: Wow! Even your sources for definitions are antiquated. I wonder why?

  55. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If that kind of thing happens now we report it to Twitter and they’ll take down the offending account. Letting creeps run free on Twitter is like letting rapists into the YWCA, or child abductors onto playgrounds.

    If things don’t change much, then you can keep doing what you’re doing.
    If things do change for the worse, then you’ll need to evaluate the scope and depth of the change and consider your options at that time. Maybe they change a little for the worse, maybe they change a lot. I don’t know at what point you and your wife would determine that a continued presence is a net negative.

    I think it’s always a good idea to have a plan B but what options do you have if the worst-case scenario happens? I don’t see a way to easily migrate 100k followers somewhere else.

    You could protect your tweets so that only followers can see and interact with them. The downside, of course, is that your followers can’t easily share what you post. I’m assuming you’re leveraging other platforms already – you could leave a pinned tweet up pointing people to Instagram or whatever and then just abandon Twitter.

    But at this point, no one knows what’s going to happen.

  56. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t understand the business model.

    At present, Twitter’s business model is losing several hundred million dollars per quarter.

    4
  57. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08:

    How do you even have content on PayPal? Does whatever your selling count as content?

    Yes. This has been going on for at least 20 years. I remember back in the olden days when bloggers had tip jars and some would get their PayPal accounts frozen and their tips effectively stolen from them over content somebodyoranother deemed offensive.

    1
  58. Monala says:

    There are already bigots and trolls spewing offensive content all over Twitter just to prove they can get away with it. This is just day 1.

    I recall a number of conservatives who were not banned, but chose to leave for Truth Social or Gab in the name of free speech, who ended up returning to Twitter. Even they couldn’t stand the cesspool of those sites. And soon, Twitter will be like them.

    1
  59. CSK says:

    @just nutha:
    That’s true. In 2015, Trump had 2.98 million Twitter followers. But now, he’ll always be “President” Trump,” just as “President” is still attached to the surnames of all his predecessors, and will be to Biden’s.

    The prefix is worth something. Barack Obama left office in 2017, and President Obama still has 130+ million Twitter followers.

  60. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I was surprised to hear this practice is still ongoing. I thought Paypal would be regulated like a bank by now. It is simply BS for them to be allowed to grant themselves the right to steal someone’s money for arbitrary reasons.

  61. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    I’ve got tech child looking into alternatives.

    1
  62. DK says:

    One of my favorite things is people talking about Twitter follower numbers as if they’re real. 84-88 million followers, 134 million, 100k: smoke and mirrors.

    The reason Twitter can’t turn a profit is because of the extraordinarily high amount of bot accounts, duplicate accounts, fake accounts, ghost accounts, troll accounts etc. It’s a waste of money to advertise to empty air.

    Citing privacy, Twitter keeps resisting reforms requiring each account to be connected to a confirmed identity. I suspect Twitter is actually more fearful of having its inflated population numbers exposed. Forcing such reforms — and deleting the fakes and phantoms — would be one thing Elon could do to improve Twitter and reduce its cesspool-like discourse. But then he’d lose even more money upon discovery that Twitter’s active, real userbase is a fraction of what advertisers are currently told.

    Of course he knows this, hence the row about bots that held up the deal. Musk forget due diligence on this in his impulse buy.

    1
  63. Stormy Dragon says:

    @DK:

    Citing privacy, Twitter keeps resisting reforms requiring each account to be connected to a confirmed identity. I suspect Twitter is actually more fearful of having its inflated population numbers exposed. Forcing such reforms — and deleting the fakes and phantoms — would be one thing Elon could do to improve Twitter and reduce its cesspool-like discourse.

    All one has to do is go to facebook to see that confirmed identities do nothing to reduce the “cesspool-like discourse”. Plenty of people are happy to be vile under the real name. All linking accounts to real identities would do is make it easier for harassment campaigns to follow targeted minorities off the platform into the real world.

    1
  64. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Monala:

    Here’s the link to the WaPo article on this

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/10/28/musk-twitter-racist-posts/

    An emboldened cast of anonymous trolls spewed racist slurs and Nazi memes onto Twitter in the hours after billionaire industrialist Elon Musk took over the social network Thursday, raising fears of how his pledge of unrestricted free speech could fuel a new wave of online hate.

  65. wr says:

    @just nutha: “Even your sources for definitions are antiquated. ”

    What? You’re saying that language has changed since 1913?

  66. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “At present, Twitter’s business model is losing several hundred million dollars per quarter”

    Which is now being copied by Meta…

    1
  67. Kathy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    As they were bought by someone with more money, or at least financing, than sense, the model looks fairly successful.

    Of course, other companies with that model which never get bought by the Elons of the world, don’t make the news.

    1
  68. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    My hope is that this causes something based on either Matrix or ActivityPub (like Mastadon) to become the next big thing because it would be nice to have a social media platform that’s not beholden to a single company and the whims of one billionaire techbro.

    2
  69. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:

    Which is now being copied by Meta…

    Obviously you’re a Luddite who simply does not understand the advantages of dealing with uncanny valley avatars of people while wearing a plastic bedpan strapped to your face and waving a remote around in the air like an orchestra conductor having a stroke. Sooo much better than FaceTime or Zoom where you can talk to real people’s faces or, God forbid, actual human interaction.

    VR headsets are the new Google Glass – toys designed by people who’ve evidently never met an actual human. Meta stock down by two thirds in the last year.

    1
  70. DK says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Meh. Twitter is much worse than Facebook in the cesspool race, admittedly a low bar. My Facebook feed is very benign bubble. I think if you’re getting cesspool on Facebook you’re choosing to engage with and invite crap. On Twitter, it seems like the cess finds you wherever you go.

    Then again, that is Facebook’s problem. You can wrap yourself in bubble of family, friends, and funny videos (as I have) but you can also wrap yourself in a bubble of Russian disinformation. And then Facebook will keep feeding you more and more disinformation, because that’s what you like.

    Still preferable to Twitter’s parade of horrible.

    2
  71. Gustopher says:

    If it becomes a cesspool of Nazis and Pedophiles, people will leave.

    The technical cost of creating a new social network isn’t that high — see Truth Social and Parlor — so I expect several someone’s will try to fill the void, and one or more will take off.

    It’s happened before, it will happen again.

    I assume someone at Google has been pitching restarting Google+, which was a weird product because of some over complicated product decisions, released at a time when there was no reason for it to exist.

    And I expect others are looking into it.

    (My favorite suggestion is that everyone migrate to LinkedIn, and fill it with pictures of lunch, furry content, etc.)

    1
  72. Stormy Dragon says:

    @DK:

    I’ve never had a Facebook, as it breaks the first rule of internet security: never use your real name unless there’s money involved.

    My problem is that the people there in the Russian disinformation bubble don’t stay in the bubble, the frequently start going after unrelated people, and the fact they’re using the real identity in the bubble hasn’t deterred that.

    Making the person behind, say, LibsofTikTok use their real name isn’t going to make them stop organizing harrassment campaigns toward LGBT people. It is going to make it easier for the harrassment campaigns to figure out who those LGBT people are.

    So the end result will not be a reduction of homophobia, but rather driving LGBT people back into the closet.

    1
  73. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m building (having built at frightening expense) a site that will combine all of my/our work in one location, centered on a pair of series for which we regained publishing rights. I have an assemblage of book designers, editors, cover artists and techies, so I can also use it to self-pub, or pub friends. I may just use Twitter and other social to point there. It’s seeming like a better idea all the time.

  74. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    So you’re going to “substack” but rolling your own joint. Seems like a good idea to me. What’s old is new again, but I think it’s generally good to be in control of your content and brand without the problems of intermediaries.

    1
  75. James Joyner says:

    @DK: It may be a function of age and occupation. My Facebook feed is mostly high school, college, and Army friends and acquaintances while my Twitter feed is most professional contacts or professionals who write about things I care about. The former is way more cesspool-like but they’re 50-70 years old.

    2
  76. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    What’s worse, Second Life and VRChat both already exist, so Meta basically spent billions developing something significantly less capable that platforms that are a decade old.

    1
  77. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Rule of Acquisition number something or other: sell the sizzle, not the steak.

    Short term, a product requires a customer base that wants it, not one that needs it. So make the VR/AR spectacles look cool, and give them a name that doesn’t lend itself to a derogatory pun like Glasshole (that’s a tough one).

    Long term the product needs to be useful to enough customers that they’ll keep paying for it (wanna make a bet on subscriptions of some sort?), and that others will want or need to adopt (see smart “phones”). Because eventually the sizzle won’t sell much grade F steak.

    1
  78. de stijl says:

    I set up a Twitter account in 2016 or so. I ran out of shit to say in about 7 tweets. I started tweeting pictures of pangolins because I think they are cool looking. Hashtag pangolin never took off.

    My interest ran to zero in about ten days. For me, there was no there there. I don’t need annoying things in my life that provide me no value or pleasure.

    The account probably still exists but I have no idea what my user name was nor the password.

    1
  79. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    With apologies to Mr Joyner, I won’t cry any tears if Musk ends up destroying Twitter. Would probably cheer. I really hate what it’s done to social interaction and political discussion in this country. And I’m sure that journalists, academics, and other heavy users will be able to figure out alternatives (I mean, it’s not like they even HAD Twitter in the recent past, and the professions survived).

    1
  80. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: I follow a variety of animal themed Twitter accounts — capybaras, badgers, etc. Pangolins would have been a welcome addition.

    1
  81. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: But I have to assume that the fact that Obama probably says intelligent things most of the time helps, too. 😉

  82. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: When I had a Facebook in Korea that I opened to check out the account of an old friend, the system accepted my fake user name–Hae Jang-gook (hangover soup), and my fake Naver email account linked to a made up phone number. And I was joining from a computer at a PC lounge. I’m not convinced that security is all that tight.

    1
  83. Michael Reynolds says:

    Fearless prediction: Musk will either return to, and indeed increase moderation, or be forced to sell Twitter in six months for a third of what he paid.

    1