Greg Bensinger in The New York Times ($) describes a Twitter nightmare scenario under Elon Musk:
Certainly, Twitter could benefit from some improvements to its service. Its rules are enforced unevenly; it is filled with racist trolling, harassment and misinformation. Politicians and celebrities also seem to enjoy a lighter touch from Twitter’s enforcement of its policies against misinformation, despite the evidence that they are more likely to be believed than regular users. Twitter’s usual approach to moderating content has been to slap warning labels on tweets, which are easy to ignore and don’t mitigate the damage done by misinformation.
Before and after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Donald Trump used Twitter to whip his followers into a frenzy. The company rightfully barred Mr. Trump from Twitter for his role in that shameful episode, but it had turned a blind eye to similar behavior for years.
Into that toxic stew comes Mr. Musk. He has called someone he disagrees with “pedo guy,” made jokes about women’s anatomy and was forced to delete a union-busting message aimed at his factory workers — all on the platform he’ll soon own.
Bensinger predicts toxicity if Musk makes good on his promise to loosen content moderation, and expresses the fear of many of us that he’ll reinstate Donald Trump. I don’t credit Joe Biden with the sweet, sweet civilized silence of the past year and a half so much as I credit Trump’s banishment from corporate social media.
Charlie Warzel, who “used to chronicle the way that Twitter’s product inaction created a ‘honeypot for assholes,'” is less downbeat about the platform’s Musky future in The Atlantic ($) – but not by much:
This timeline—the most plausible of the three—is a blend of the dark and the weird ones: In it, he reinstates some accounts like, say, Trump’s, the platform is fundamentally worse for it, and after a few early wins, he loses interest in the day-to-day operations. His early efforts will be exciting for him and maybe even consequential for us but, if 10 years of following Twitter’s content-moderation and management decisions have taught me anything, I am not sure the things he implements are going to yield the kind of results that can compete to keep his attention alongside everything his other companies are doing. And so some small things change but it’s not nearly as dramatic as we envision now.
I have chosen to be ignorant of Elon Musk, largely because my gut tells me his news coverage would make my stomach churn in the same way Trump’s coverage almost killed me for years. But I know enough to sense that it’s probably time for me to start backing away from Twitter in this new “free speech” era, broadcasting there periodically from my Micro.blog platform and doing little else.
Most of my direct activity on Twitter has involved carefully curated circles revolving around faith and baseball. I like interacting with people I choose to face there, mainly other Catholics who aren’t insane. They comprise a de facto community that I’ve needed, and I hope not to chuck it entirely. Because of that community, Twitter – for me, anyway – has become much less of a toxic hellhole in recent months compared with other corporate social media platforms.
It strikes me as a healthy thing, though, to reassess how much I really want to support what could devolve into an even worse toxic hellhole.