Elon Musk has a lot of work to do over at Twitter.
He’s already announced plans to monetize the blue check verification system. As a blue check holder, I endorse this move. It makes good business sense. The check has value…for now. Value denotes cost. Why shouldn’t users pay for a service that offers a value-added experience to a “free” platform?
RedState writer Bonchie sums it up best:
Anyway, the reality is that nothing is going to change except that those who see the blue checkmark as vital to their influence will now pay for it. The rest of us won’t, including a lot of people who currently have them but just don’t care that much.
Further, while the wailing has already begun, it’s important to note that what Musk is doing is necessary. Twitter is notoriously overleveraged. I’m not even sure it has ever turned a real profit despite its value. That’s one of the main reasons Twitter’s old board of directors voted to sell. They saw the writing on the wall. Monetizing the platform while growing it ensures that it will exist far into the future.
We’re about to find out just how much false influence Twitter has exerted on the culture over the last decade. With a new sheriff in town, the curtains are going to be pulled back and everyone is going to see how the sausage has been getting made, to mix metaphors. When corporations do things like threaten to punish local governments over social legislation (“don’t say gay,” Georgia voter laws, abortion bans, etc.), it is because they are reacting to social media mobs, and those mobs are particularly active on Twitter. There is a better-than-good chance that those mobs have been largely populated with bots, or duplicated accounts from activist groups.
There’s also the pesky little problem of censorship. Once Big Tech got away with censoring America into a Democrat victory in 2020, Twitter only seems to have doubled down on tamping free speech. Sometimes it’s been in the form of shadow bans, sometimes outright banning (like ousting Jordan Peterson and locking The Babylon Bee’s account), sometimes it’s been in flagging “misinformation.”
Early on Monday, Rasmussen tweeted that scientific polling was being flagged by the Twitter algorithm (or by some leftover disgruntled employees that Musk hasn’t fired yet). The link they shared was from RedState’s sister site, PJ Media. As it turns out, it wasn’t the poll that was flagged, but the reporter himself. Matt Margolis has been on the Twitter flag list for quite sometime now, for no known reason other than he’s a conservative reporter. Perhaps he ticked off the wrong Twitter brownshirt just before her scheduled nap pod time?
The left has been complaining about the influence of “misinformation” for two years now, even though they’ve owned all the avenues of information nearly exclusively. If Musk does his job right (and we have every reason to believe he’s on top of it), progressive America is about to see just how much of their opinion has been based on not only misinformation, but the opinions and rage of people who do not even exist.
It’s going to take a while to get it all sorted, but Musk looks to be moving at record speed. He’s ordered certain algorithm changes and the blue check monetization program to be completed by November 7, the day before election day.
Facebook/Meta is reportedly experiencing their own fiscal problems. Social media is as hard to leverage for cash as streaming entertainment. At some point, the market is tapped out. Facebook is pulling up on that point with a quickness. If they see Musk turn around Twitter for a healthy profit, and see the market respond by rewarding Twitter with more users instead of fewer, might we see a “Musk Effect” about to take place at other social media outlets? And will that affect future election cycles?
Or maybe that’s not really the question to ask. Maybe the real question is this…
If social media companies simply take no political positions at all when it comes to their algorithms, would that beckon a new era of democracy (small ‘d’ because I know we’re a republic…just in case you commenters were stretching your fingers to correct me)?
And if it does, would that mean Elon Musk has saved the republic?
Perhaps that’s a bit overdramatic to phrase it that way.
But it might not be. We shall see.