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I know it’s not cool to admit to liking Twitter, but I’m not afraid: Fuck, I love Twitter. I love reading tweets, I love tweeting. I’m such a twitcuck I actually pay for Twitter Blue. I don’t care who knows it. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is unhinge my jaw like a snake, fire up Twitter, and gobble down a massive quantity of tweets. On my deathbed, I’ll look at my beautiful family and hoarsely whisper, “I only wish I had more time to spend reading tweets.”
It’s clear that things on Twitter will change under Elon Musk’s ownership. The general assumption is that Musk will gut moderation, ease the rules, and allow back all sorts of unsavory shitheads. As tech columnist Casey Newton noted, the expectation has been that it would be like the Joker releasing the criminals from Arkham Asylum.
Musk has already said that he plans to eliminate lifetime bans, although it isn’t exactly clear what that will mean. Does it mean that he disagrees with the general concept of a lifetime ban and wants to create some sort of restorative justice framework for repeat offenders in the future? Or will we soon see a parade of ghoulies like Charles Johnson and Milo Yiannopoulos back on the platform? Today, Musk announced plans for some sort of a committee to handle major policy decisions:
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported today that trolls are flocking to Twitter to post offensive hate speech. But two out of the three tweets that it describes were taken down from the site a few hours later. Another tweet mentioned of just the n-word repeated over and over may still be up. But there’s never been a ban on tweeting just that word by itself. Nothing seems to have changed moderation-wise yet. But the trolls have made their point, noisily: “We’re here, we’re pieces of shit, get used to it.” It’s intimidation, and it’s working.
It’s impossible to predict right now what’s going to happen to Twitter in the short or long term. For all the saber-rattling Musk is doing about “free speech,” the reality is that most of the policy and moderation work is less about edgy “wrongthink” in the US and more about complying with restrictive laws in other countries. Or it’s dealing with plain old harassment. It’s hard to guess what the impact of letting a few dipshits back onto the platform will have on those bigger-picture issues that Twitter has spent the last few years cleaning up.
I’m an optimist, admittedly sometimes naively so. I want to believe that Twitter might change, and some of these changes I might not like, but they won’t be so bad. I want to believe that it’s not going to become 4chan, overrun with shitlords. I also want to believe it won’t die a slow death as the result of dwindling usership and choked-off revenue.
I want to believe Twitter will still be OK, because I love Twitter. How can you log on and see something like this and not love it?
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