Since Elon Musk announced he was interested in buying Twitter — one of the most popular social media platforms in the United States, with approximately 400 million users — it’s been more than a trending topic. The potential buyout and changes that may come with it have been leading news stories and fierce debates on and off the platform.
But, how would the change in Twitter’s ownership really impact user experience? Here are some of the topics Musk has already shared he wants to address.
Musk has discussed changing revenue generation sources from advertising to subscriptions — putting the financial burden on users while removing the frequent advertisements from our feeds. Initial chatter has indicated that the monthly subscription price would be less than $2.99 per person per month, the current cost of Twitter Blue. Time would tell if users would pay to play and what would happen to existing users that do not want to buy into the service.
End-To-End Encryption For Direct Messages
Additional measures to secure communication would be an added benefit for all users.
While most users who do not tweet about controversial topics or engage in political debate on Twitter do not encounter the wrath of the bots, those who do have been wrestling with these nuisances to no avail. Most would agree that a bot-free Twitter would benefit all “real” users.
Good luck, Mr. Musk! This is probably one of his most challenging suggested changes to implement. As the target of cyberstalking and harassment by a woman who allegedly has had five dozen or more social media aliases — and impersonated me on several platforms — this sounds like a dream come true.
This week, I was surprised to see people expressing opposition to authentication, because they felt it would stifle participation by those who may “need” anonymity. While I understand this point of view, I’m not convinced Twitter is better without authentication.
Musk is against censorship “that goes far beyond the law.” He believes that “if people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.”
Perhaps Musk forgot that Twitter is a platform with users from around the world who are not bound by the same laws. As the target of an international cyberstalking and harassment case, I know all too well the challenges of navigating the differences in laws and legal systems between countries and even states.
In the United States, laws about free speech are clear. Sometimes, they are challenged. Sometimes, those challenges are tricky, especially when the speech goes against organizations’ established policies.
Harassment, Abuse, and Trolls
Those who believe free speech allows someone to cause harm to another person are mistaken. In most states, harassment and stalking are not protected speech.
According to NPR journalist Bobby Allyn, “Experts who study social networks fret about Musk’s push to loosen the rules of engagement on Twitter. They say that could give license to harassers, trolls and others who abuse the platform to target people.”
Musk would make a tremendous mistake if he loosened the reigns on community standard violations for abusive content under the pretense of free speech.
Very few elected officials and candidates have been banned from Twitter. Whether banning users would disappear or the parameters would change remains to be seen, but it would seem that the uncivil discourse that already exists on the platform will continue.
As long as there are people with different opinions, there will be accusations of misinformation. Could there be more misinformation? Sure, but I don’t think that will be Musk’s doing.
I’m fascinated by the number of people who want an edit button. Everyone makes a typo from time to time. I’ve even written the wrong day of the week once or twice. Will an edit button make Twitter better? No, but there are a lot of people looking forward to it.
For targets of harassment, defamation of character, or cyberstalking, it’s somewhat unsettling to know that perpetrators could make investigations more difficult. That said, one’s digital footprint will live beyond an edit.
As this monumental deal goes through, we have more questions than answers. Will Musk lead with pushing through the edit function, or will he make policy changes? Will the platform lose users and, in effect, exclude many of the broad voices Musk claims he wishes to include?