Why I'm Not Leaving Twitter
Twitter announced on Monday that it has accepted Elon Musk's $44 billion offer to take the company private and Twitter reacted accordingly by setting itself on fire.
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Elon Musk apparently bought Twitter yesterday. To be completely accurate, the rich people, who currently control Twitter, “sold” the plan to shareholders to accept Musk’s final offer of $44 billion, and the deal to purchase the social media giant was made. The possibility of the sale had been announced earlier in the day, so I did what I always do — I reported that news, and then I created a separate tweet to express my calm and measured opinion about the uncertainty.
The threat of change, especially right now, appears to be an extremely hostile notion to many people, and they did not hold back in expressing themselves. This is where I would normally attach the tweet in this post and discuss the responses, but by 8 pm last night I decided to just delete a few of my “stay calm” tweets because my patience with the influx of nasty responses was seriously waning.
My tweets urging people to wait on deleting their Twitter accounts until we actually knew the direct problem that required a solution elicited responses from my own followers ranging from my selfish interests to my white lady privilege. While I don’t completely discount these concepts, this was a reactionary freak-out about a rumor that Donald Trump’s Twitter account could be restored by the Musk takeover.
I can understand how the idea of Trump returning to Twitter could cause some stress, but this level of panic was quite intense, especially considering that while Trump was banned from tweeting, his influence with half of the voters of this country has not seemed to wane. The ignorant prospect of “out of sight, out of mind,” and the disastrous results it yields when people create their own realities, seems to be infecting many of the people who claim to be fighting that very thing.
By 9 pm, I had lost over 1,000 followers on Twitter and that had never happened before in the history of my account. By 9:10 my mom was texting me the lyrics to Wonderwall. For the past year, Twitter has been limiting liberal activist accounts by keeping their follower counts low and by keeping their tweets from getting their usual visibility. This is something I have figured out not only from the drastic change in my account statistics after Jack Dorsey left Twitter, but also from the chatter in chat rooms over what was happening from the fallout.
I have worried about these impacts, and what they might mean for Democrats in the Midterm Election in 2022, but I wanted to see how that played out, while recognizing that it was all a test run for the 2024 Presidential Election. I also have some background worry about what it will mean for my career, but that is usually tempered with the fact that I am a pivoting machine and will just do it again, as needed. I am also getting very tired of the toxic dynamic I feel forced to have with a social media platform that continually puts me down, and diminishes my work, despite the fact that I create good, free content for them.
This uncertainty, on a platform that is like another home, after trudging through four-plus years of Donald Trump and three-plus years of a pandemic, is brutal. I suspect this is the very reason there was an exodus of possibly millions of people from the Twitter platform yesterday. But there is no denying that Twitter has also been incredibly stagnant for the past year and I’m not so sure that this new internal shake-up won’t create some interesting possibilities for everyone.
Let’s break down the problem and what we know. We know that Elon Musk is motivated by money, power, and ego. (I don’t have time to go into all of the factual reasons for how we know this, but I have been following his business and personal moves for years, so you will need to just trust me on this.) While we have strong suspicions that purchasing Twitter may have just been a $44 billion vanity project for Musk, it is clear that an initial shake-up could be good for us all.
Elon Musk will want Twitter to make money. As much as he pontificates on the need for free speech, Musk is a businessman to the core, so the likelihood of him killing the platform just to suit his ego is not likely. The danger of this “profit” issue is that there could be several new “for-pay” additions, and Musk has already hinted at wanting to make the blue-check verification program a paid service. This won’t really have much of an effect on the average user, as long as the overall platform has a basic option that remains free.
Elon Musk has no idea how difficult it is to regulate free speech on a platform that still has to apply certain laws that curtail some speech — such as hate speech. While you have to adhere to the rules of Twitter when you create an account and this makes it a private platform, the service itself creates a legal “public forum” where not all speech is allowed by law. The fact that Musk is selling an “unlimited speech for all” concept is either intentionally ignorant for the purposes of selling his plan, or he lacks a clear understanding of how things actually work.
Either way, Elon Musk will figure out the legal limits of free speech fairly quickly, especially when the Civil lawsuits start. What concerns me most on this front is losing the procedures Twitter had taken to protect certain demographics from bullying, and to protect the platform from misinformation. If Twitter goes back to allowing Republican politicians and conspiracy theorists to post their lies as fact, we could be headed down the Facebook path, which helped Trump get elected and has only fueled the pandemic.
Elon Musk is also under investigation again by the SEC for his role in manipulating the stock markets, a move that has likely contributed to his acquisition of Twitter. While Musk was charged by the SEC in 2018 for posting misleading Tweets that may have manipulated the markets, he quickly settled that case with a payout. It is possible that this latest purchase was intended to provide more insulation in the SEC case against him, but the ongoing investigation could be an issue for shareholders down the line.
There are also certain corporate duties Musk will now owe to the company, which are in place to ensure the proper functioning of the corporate entity. Without going into a huge legal explanation of those safeguards, it is safe to say that while there are safety nets in place to protect investors and the community, there are also many ways to weasel out of those requirements, something Musk has already done with the SEC.
Bottom line: if Elon Musk is truly interested in creating a public place, that encourages the free-flowing thought of everyone without algorithmic limitations that favor one political party over the other, then this shake-up could be good on some levels. On the other hand, if Musk is really interested in creating another platform, like Facebook, that helps to propel disinformation and sell conspiracy theories, then there will be several obstacles to overcome.
I can assess the possibilities of Elon Musk’s hypothetical intentions for hours. That is what I have been legally trained to do. But in this time of tremendous uncertainty, I feel to do so would be to miss the point entirely. All I need to do, at this point, is reassess my own intentions and then get to work. I joined Twitter years ago to help make a positive change by getting the first female president elected. I stayed on Twitter after that failed because my country had become greatly incapacitated and was alone at the bar after being roofied, and it was surrounded by predators.
I developed my dream job in this process and have never been more fulfilled by my work. While the idea of losing what I have created is something that drives me every day, it is not the heart of what I have chosen to do with my life. I believe in the promise of what America can be and I believe in the duty we have, as charged by the Founding Fathers, to protect what is precious in our own government. I believe in us, and I saw this hard work prevail in November of 2020 when we elected Joe Biden.
Moreover, as a woman in a male-dominated culture, I have had to pivot many times due to the upheaval caused by various power-hungry white men more times than I can count. While I am not especially excited at the idea of massive changes right now, I accept the challenge with the understanding that we grow most in times of upheaval and I want to continue to make things better. You can throw a million Elon Musks at me, I’m not going anywhere.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and hosts the live SHERO podcast on Callin. She is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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