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Elon Musk tries to turn Twitter into a Truth Social clone & somehow it’s hilarious


It’s been six months since Elon Musk took over Twitter and took it private. In that time, Musk exploited the corporate governance freedom conveyed by the company being private to remake the platform into a clone of Truth Social. This is the height of irony because Truth Social started out as a clone of Twitter. 

The latest drastic shift with the transformation of the blue check system may have been the most jarring because the immediate effect was to exponentially amplify Republican politicians, Trumpy influencers, COVID disinformation, and crypto shills. Given that Musk is an advocate for all of these groups, it makes one wonder if this was all the plan from the beginning. 

Public v. Private Twitter

That may sound like a jump, but let’s review. When Musk purchased the platform with the financial support of some of the most violent dictators on the planet, he immediately took it off the NYSE

This allowed him to stop releasing various types of financial and governance information required by the SEC. As a result, we know much less now about Twitter’s finances, so when Musk claimed in the BBC interview that “most advertisers have returned,” we have to take him at his word, although recent reporting suggests that this is very much not the case. 

Musk proceeded to dismantle most of the moderation and content management teams, which has led to a very well-documented rise in hate speech, bot activity, and misinformation. 

Now, moderation is micromanaged centrally by Musk himself, so various journalists who annoyed him have been suspended and media outlets he didn’t favor were given misleading labels. 

Musk’s disdain for the media is illustrated by the “poop emoji” auto-reply with which Twitter now responds to all journalist queries. Good thing there aren’t any shareholders who could disapprove of this! And that’s the way Musk wanted it. 

Musk had already learned his lesson with Tesla. The SEC caused him a big headache over his tweet about taking Tesla private. He realized that being beholden to regulators puts a massive funk in a CEO’s governance style. 

Musk certainly would be able to boost Dogecoin using official Twitter functions a million times per day, that’s for certain. 

Twitter used to be required to reveal information to the SEC about the number of users versus the number of bots on the platform. Not anymore! 

Twitter to Truther

Musk used the bot numbers as a pretext to kill the deal to purchase the platform, only to do a 180 afterward, effectively opening the platform up to mass automated activity by governments and anyone willing to pay the new, higher fees for access to the Twitter API. 

If you knew what his plan was from the beginning, to turn Twitter into Truth Social, everything has gone rather perfectly. Sure, there was negative press. Musk embarrassed himself by mocking a disabled employee, as Disruption Banking wrote about here, but all in all, Twitter has come a long way from the status it once enjoyed to the reputation it has today. 

Six months ago, Twitter was thought of as a de facto global square. The company was publicly traded, so there was a baseline of transparency in terms of corporate governance. The staff responded regularly with reporters, and yes, they also interacted with the government, including law enforcement and politicians. 

The Twitter Files attempted to make this seem sinister, but it’s nothing more or less than any other social network is required to do, and lest we forget, Trump’s White House also requested certain tweets be removed when they offended Trump, such as when Chrissy Teagan called Trump a “pussy ass bitch.” 

This is important to remember when weighing the accusation that Twitter collaborated with the government to suppress conservative voices. 

Who gets the freedom to speak?

Twitter was messy. It was a bit of a cesspool. People were nasty, but there were limits. You couldn’t suggest that somebody should commit suicide; the platform would stop you with a “nudge.” If you shared disinformation or used racial slurs, you would likely face suspension. 

This seems to be the real sticking point that irked right-wingers, which is telling. For them, the idea that one would be stopped from using a racial slur was somehow more offensive than someone being harassed because of their race. 

Likewise with the suspension of a user recommending bunk cures for COVID or suggesting that getting vaccinated would make your sexual organs stop functioning. Although such claims arguably harmed people on a massive scale, even leading to their deaths in some cases, the devotion to free speech superseded any concern for public health. 

Conservatives claimed that their tweets didn’t get the same reach. They were always talking about shadowbans, which I never believed because I’m a lib and my tweets didn’t get much action, either. 

The small d 

Some accounts really took off on Twitter, and I don’t think it was just about the political leaning of the user; it was about their content. In that respect, Twitter used to be small d – democratic. 

That’s the real loss when it comes to the new blue check system that Musk instituted last week. Now, the blue check does not convey legitimacy; it suggests patronage. Somebody has paid to be verified, which is essentially analogous to being an advertiser. 

Who “pays the 8”? So far, it’s Republican politicians and MAGA influencers. Not only them, to be sure, but the Twitter timeline of many is radically different the day after the new blue check system was put into place. 

For me, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, and disgraced Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, as well as former Fox News Host Tucker Carlson and MAGA influencer Tim Pool, were notable, considering that I follow none of them and have no interest in their comments unless reported in the media with appropriate context (read: criticism). 

Block the blue

That brings me to #blocktheblue, which took off quickly after the new blue check began. Some framed it as a leftwing freakout, but there is a logical rationale behind it because Musk announced that blue-verified accounts will be able to downvote their enemies by blocking them. 

Sounds like a handy way for blue-checked Republicans to silence big-D Democrats, as well as neo-Nazis to drown out antifascists. 

One legacy user that has come out powerfully against the new system is @Dril, a bawdy comedian of sorts who has been tweeting for 15 years and has 1.7 million followers. He’s so well-regarded in the Twitterverse that he was one of 35 accounts Must chose to promote to users with the algorithm

@Dril told Mashable, “I am actively rooting for the downfall of twitter. I hope to sabotage their efforts to become profitable, no matter how futile, in the hopes that they will eventually close up shop and release us all from this toilet.” 

@Dril is not alone. So many users disagreed with the new changes that on April 22, a day later, #blocktheblue was the third topic on the trending list, after Elon Musk and Dril. 

Alejandra Caraballo, a writer for Slate and Wired, made an excellent point about the salient product design flaw in the new blue system. 

Twitter: Down in the red or back in black? 

So, to return to the topic of corporate governance and privatization, Elon Musk has transformed the platform, making it less transparent, less egalitarian, and more capitalistic, for better or worse, and it is arguable that the quality of the platform’s content itself is being downgraded. 

This might make sense if it was all in the service of making the platform profitable, which is the ostensible goal that Musk has pursued for the past six months. Those defending Musk’s actions often make this point, but it’s far from clear that profitability will return. 

If so, right now it’s not coming from the blue check racket. According to Travis Brown, an independent researcher who uses Twitter’s API for research, the first day of Twitter Blue did not go as Musk probably wanted. 

You read that right, there was “a net increase of 28 accounts” who signed up for Twitter Blue. It’s hard to believe that the big day was such a flop, but in the absence of routine disclosure of internal data, we have no other information. Travis Brown stated that anyone with a Twitter’s API account, which is free, can verify his numbers, and no one so far has stepped forward to disprove them.  

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be a steep increase from here on out, but we can theorize why there’s so much resistance against the new system, even beyond the issue of no new value proposition in Twitter’s service offering and the fact that the blue check mark doesn’t actually verify a person’s identity, just that they paid 8$ bucks. 

His own worst enemy

The deeper issue may be Musk’s own brand image. A few long years ago, he was beloved as a symbol of entrepreneurship and thinking outside the box. Then, over the years, he got more and more political.

Finally, he all but aligned himself with Donald Trump; it doesn’t matter that he suggested that maybe Trump shouldn’t be the nominee for 2024. It is enough that he offered to bring Trump’s Twitter account back, and he uses the platform to supports the Republican Party any way he can. 

However, it likely wasn’t just his political stance and “free speech absolutism” that turned people against Musk’s Twitter.

Alex Kirshner described the complex reasons people might have in Slate, “The masses are not balking at paying for Twitter Blue because they’re trying to shelter themselves within a crumbling elitist internet order but because they think Musk is offering an unworthy product and is also a dickhead.”

Since Trump, we’ve become so inured to toxic behavior, but I struggle to think of a more cruel and toxic CEO than Elon Musk. I mean, consider for a moment that he used the company’s internal information to smear former employees, one of whom, Yoel Roth, had to sell his house due to death threats, as well as “homophobic and antisemitic harassment.” 

For conservatives, this is all justified because, in their view, the former owners used the platform to steal elections for the Democrats. In fact, there are conservatives who think the new Twitter owner owes them something because of their suffering under Twitter’s previous owners.

If the primary users who support Twitter Blue are far-right types, that isn’t going to sit well with the wider user base which likely became more liberal as rightwingers drifted off to Gettr, Gab, Parler, and Truth Social.

However, even apart from Musk’s divisiveness and the declining coolness factor associated with the blue check, there could be a legal issue, as well. 

Publicity rights litigation is usually used by famous people to stop brands from associating them with some product without their consent, which is exactly what Musk seems to be doing, and knowing how litigious Americans are, it’s a good bet that there will be lawsuits.

This might not be a big concern for Musk; I doubt there would be a runaway jury award for such an injury, but these types of expenses, hundreds of them, if not fully covered by insurance, could decrease the profits Musk has struggled to create. 

There are already various cases of impersonation popping up, and as before, some of them are comical. A fake account purporting to be a TV station in Kenya has gone viral with fake news. Another pretending to be J.K. Rowling posted an apology for anti-trans positions. 

There was an argument between two accounts claiming to be the real city government of New York

Then, there are the dead celebrities are have seemed to be signed up for Twitter Blue, including Pele, Norm MacDonald, Anthony Boardain, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Pratchett, Michael Jackson, and Kobe Bryant. Not a good look, and Musk can’t seem to help himself from antagonizing both the dead and the living.

As of March 24, Twitter had only made $11 million from the relaunched Twitter Blue, and this latest drive has been lackluster, at best.  

Writing in Techdirt, Mike Mansick aptly captured the current state of Twitter Blue, …as seems to keep happening, Elon Musk brings back a system he decried as stupid, but brings it back in a much stupider, and much worse, manner. So now there’s still an arbitrary lords and peasants system, but rather than one where at least someone is trying to determine if a person is notable and needs to be verified, it’s now an arbitrary cut-off on followers, or if Elon thinks it’s funny. Which seems way more arbitrary and stupid than the old system.”

Musk’s New Safe Space

Throughout the past six months, Musk’s personal vanity, indifference to the plight of others, and churlishness have powerfully shown through. After he ruthlessly fired thousands of employees with no notice or preparation, he couldn’t stand that his Superbowl tweet didn’t get enough attention and demanded 80 engineers figure out a way to boost his tweets. 

He’s childishly defensive about his failures; calling the flustered BBC reporter a liar for being unable to point to a specific tweet showing hate (hint: search #goyim, and you’ll find your neighborhood neo-Nazis, loud and proud) and responding with faux humor to another report by the BBC about trolls. 

Musk’s got very sensitive feelings, which was on display in his speechlessness and sputtering responses to getting booed in SF while on stage with Dave Chappelle. 

Musk wants to be cuddled by reporters and told he is a genius, not challenged and certainly not embarrassed, which is why he and Tucker Carlson had such a backslapping and bromance-y interview.  

Still, it is arguably a very serious thing when a coterie of fascist billionaires take over the de facto global public square and work tirelessly and aggressively to empower fascist voices. However, like Trump, Elon Musk is such a bad manager, such an ego-driven, rake-stepping, out-of-touch curmudgeon lacking impulse control and empathy, he makes it funny. Somehow, Twitter has become more entertaining with Musk in charge.

Maybe, one day he will learn that you can’t make Gen Z subscribe to fascism by “suggesting” they follow Kari Lake and Tucker Carlson, any more than you can try to monetize a free service after downgrading the quality. As the CEO of various successful companies, you would think Musk should know this.

One thing is for sure, Twitter will never become a public company again while Musk is at the helm, nor could it. It will remain his personal plaything as he grinds the brand into the ground like a toddler unwittingly strangling small woodland creatures.

Author: Tim Tolka, writer, journalist, and BI researcher

The editorial team at #DisruptionBanking has taken all precautions to ensure that no persons or organizations have been adversely affected or offered any sort of financial advice in this article. This article is most definitely not financial advice.

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