It’s been a year since Elon Musk bought Twitter promising to rejuvenate the “digital town square”. By all measures, it has been an obscene failure.
After paying an inflated $44 billion, Twitter is now worth half that, Musk has admitted. Most of its advertisers have fled – in no small part because the self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist” retrenched the actual human beings doing the moderation and it’s now a disinformation quagmire.
Last month the European Union launched an investigation into X over “the alleged spreading of terrorist and violent content and hate speech” relating to the Hamas-Israel war.
Musk is suing the anti-hate speech groups who have alerted the world to the surge in this kind of hate speech and disinformation – claiming these civil organisations are trying to “kill” the platform and are the reason advertisers have fled.
A not so happy birthday for
Now inexplicably called X – another whimsical and spontaneous decision by the freewheeling Musk – the platform is a shadow of what it used to be. Trolls are rampant, especially from the right wing, whose nutters have been given free rein by Musk, who has indefensibly retweeted many unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
Twitter was once wonderful. There was serendipity and surprise to it. I met many friends through Twitter in the early days.
Now X is exactly that, the mark of where Twitter went to die.
Without Musk threatening cage fights against Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, all there is left to report are the same weird – and now frankly boring – attempts by the world’s richest person to be in the spotlight.
It’s a narcissism we’ve become accustomed to from other spoilt public brats like Donald Trump, another former #Presidunce trying their darndest to stay out of jail. If not for social media trolling, why else does #PresidunceZuma want his prosecutor Billie Downer and News24’s legal journalist Karyn Maughan to sit in the dock for his discredited personal prosecution than to post humiliating pictures?
Social media is all about posturing, as we know, but such nonsense and non-action has become news in the form of so-and-so-tweeted-something-controversial stories.
As my very first news editor told me: news is what people do, not what people say.
Twitter has taken this terrible trend to its nadir. Every time Musk tweets some inanity, it gets reported on by the tech media.
When former CEO Parag Agrawal crafted a careful and thoughtful post about Twitter bots (which Musk was clearly and dishonestly using as an excuse to get out of his binding offer to buy Twitter, in which he waived his rights to due diligence), Musk replied with a poop emoji.
This inexcusably juvenile reply has become the standard response to any email sent to X.com’s now unmanned media address. A poop emoji.
This is teenager fart joke humour. From the world’s richest person – who is such an ivory tower that nobody can reach him to remind him to behave like a decent human being. This Steve Jobs arsehole behaviour isn’t cool anymore. The world has real problems and Musk shouldn’t be wasting his time with a social platform he has now eviscerated. He should be solving real problems.
- This column first appeared in Financial Mail.