New Twitter Fingers

“Comedy is now legal on Twitter,” wrote the company’s new owner Elon Musk in a tweet on Oct. 28. This followed another post that discussed a new “content moderation council” that will be introduced under his control.

Musk closed a $44 billion dollar deal to take over the social media platform on Oct. 27 after months of negotiations and uncertainty. Since the sale’s closing, Musk has fired the organization’s top executives including Chief Executive Officer Parag Agrawal and Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, according to The Associated Press.

“Since his acquisition, there has been extensive coverage of the advertiser and top executive departures, which is troubling for the platform’s long-term success although could be part of his overall efforts to diversify income for Twitter,” said adjunct instructor Prof. Alana Ledford, who teaches social media strategy.

The Associated Press reported that all of Musk’s moves have been analyzed by users, employees and advertisers to try to determine where he will take the company. The issue of free speech and previous content bans is one heavily anticipated decision since Musk is a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” but has also tweeted that the company “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.”

“I think the company could potentially bring in more revenue and gain more users with fewer restrictions. However, I do worry that this could allow false information and harmful conspiracy theories to spread across the platform as that has been an issue Twitter has faced in the past,” said senior nursing major Hannah Lynch.

Dr. Mark Congdon, professor of strategic communication, public relations and advertising, noted similar concerns of disinformation.

“Musk has spread misinformation on Twitter, even recently. That was a big concern that I had because this is a problem that’s impacting not just the U.S. in issues of our democracy and what’s considered fact, but also globally,” Congdon said. “Governments and regulations are trying to reign in social media, so it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Twitter changes.”

Dr. Lucjan Orlowski, professor of economics and finance and director of the Doctor of Business Administration in Finance program at Sacred Heart University, noted the economic impacts of speculations of Twitter’s content changes.

“Thus far, Twitter’s popularity and revenues have been largely attributed to the promotion of rather extreme, polarizing opinions, much of them based on arbitrary, unrealistic assertions. Such extreme dichotomy of ideas is unlikely to guarantee the platform’s future success,” he said.

Twitter’s recent monthly active users has been estimated at 396 million. This ranks them number 17 among all social media companies, far behind the top three: Facebook with 2.9 billion active users, YouTube with 2.3 billion and WhatsApp with 2.0 billion.

“We don’t yet know if Twitter will be able to retain its current position as new competition comes to play,” said Orlowski.

A contributing factor of this statistic, according to Congdon, is Twitter’s stagnation.

“Compared to other social media apps like Facebook or Instagram or TikTok, Twitter hasn’t evolved or been as innovative as some of the other platforms,” he said. “I think there is an opportunity here for Musk to think of other ways that Twitter can evolve and expand its services and what it is.”

Ledford touched on some of the many changes to social media that will be important to the future of Twitter.

“There has been growth in new companies, like BeReal, which emphasizes authenticity, while early entries into the social media space such as Facebook are investing in other areas of the web/metaverse as their user base shrinks,” said Ledford. “The recent disappointing earnings reports for top technology and social platforms demonstrate a potential reshuffling of the role these platforms serve in daily life.”

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