Twitter is clearly not the only social media platform with an addictive quality. But with its constant promise of breaking news, it feeds the hunger of those working in journalism and politics, giving it a disproportionate, and largely negative, impact. , to those areas, and therefore to our national life.
It is true that Twitter can be good for drawing attention to injustice and inciting protests, as it did after the killing of George Floyd. But as my colleague Zeynep Tufekci points out in her book “Twitter and Tear Gas,” while social media helps leaderless movements quickly coalesce, the lack of an opportunity Real-world organizational infrastructure can undermine them. It’s a reason, like The New York Times recent reportMass protest movements “are more likely to fail today than at any time since at least the 1930s”.
Twitter is much better at stoking tribalism than promoting progress. According to one Research in 2021, content expressing “outside-group hostility” – negative feelings towards dissenting groups – is the main driver of social media interaction. That is built on previous research found that on Twitter, disinformation, especially about politics, spreads “significantly farther, faster, deeper and wider than the truth”. Trump is almost certainly right when he say that without Twitter, he wouldn’t be president.
Of the company internal research showed that Twitter’s algorithm amplifies right-wing accounts and news sources more than left-wing news sources. This momentum will likely increase a bit if Musk takes over. Musk said Twitter that Twitter has a “strong left-wing bias” and that he wants the bans lifted permanently, except for spam accounts and those that explicitly call for violence. That suggests characters like Alex Jones, Steve Bannon and Marjorie Taylor Greene will be welcome back.
But as one of those who messaged Musk pointed out, returning banned right-wingers to Twitter would be a “delicate game.” After all, the reason Twitter introduced stricter censorship in the first place is because its toxicity is bad for business. Back in 2016, Disney came close to acquiring Twitter, but was ultimately stalled largely by rampant harassment on the platform. “Disney’s displeasure with abuse on the site suggests that it’s a bigger problem for Twitter’s business prospects than its executives imagined,” Bloomberg reported. .
If Musk moves Twitter towards right-wing sites like Gab, Parler and Truth Social, he could attract some new users, but at a cost. repel others. Already there, Twitter user growth slows downand as Musk pointed out when he tried to get out of the deal, many of its top accounts don’t post much. For A-list entertainers, Washington Post newspaper, Twitter “is seen as a high-risk, low-reward platform.” Lots of non-celebs feel the same way; I can’t count the number of interesting people who used to be active on the site but are no longer.
A wave of Trumpists won’t improve the vibe. Unable to save Twitter. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it can be destroyed.