A Dishonest Bird

Why you shouldn’t use Twitter as a news source anymore


James Duncan Davidson

Elon Musk bought twitter on October 27 2022 after a long stretch of discussions and agreements for 44 billion dollars.

Since Elon Musk bought Twitter on October 27, 2022, the company has found itself in a myriad of controversies and undergone an abundance of almost unimaginable self-destructive changes. Before Musk’s purchase, the app was utilized as a news source by 77% of users according to the American Press Institute, something it has swiftly become anything but. As the news reliability of the app declines, fanatic right-wing misinformation has swiftly taken its first steps to becoming the norm.

Within the first 48 hours of owning the company, Musk tweeted an anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory about the assault of Paul Pelosi, then deleted it within the same day – likely fearing the backlash he would receive from the left, and because his theory was completely unfounded. Around the same time, he announced that  “comedy is now legal on Twitter,” in reference to the company’s new content moderation policy, which can be summed up as hardly any.

Chaos ensued. A swarm of far-right anti-LGBTQ users posted a flood of tweets probing the new boundaries, or lack thereof, against derogatory speech; and thus began the transformation of the app into a platform akin to Donald Trump’s “Truth Social” – an app that claims to be based around the upholding of free speech, but in reality, serves as a microphone for nonsensical voices of the extreme right.

Musk’s first major mishap – other than laying off half of the staff – was the introduction of “Twitter Blue,” a subscription service that cost eight dollars a month (more than Netflix’s basic plan) and gave users the blue verification check mark and a few other throwaway features. The marketing for the service revolved around giving more power to the people – as the check mark would no longer be a status symbol exclusive to celebrities, and everyone could have an equal voice on the app (as long as they paid the 8 dollars of course).

Except the service seemed to ignore the original purpose of the check marks: verification for notable figures. So with this change, Musk removed all preventative measures against impersonation and opened the floodgates to a storm of internet trolls.

Twitter Blue’s ramifications began as harmless jokes, like a fake tweet of Lebron James requesting a trade from the Lakers, but quickly escalated to much more dangerous territory. The most notable and likely most damaging tweet was made by an account impersonating Eli Lilly, a major pharmaceutical company.

In the tweet, as pictured below, they claimed the company would no longer charge for insulin, causing the company’s stock to tank roughly 4.4%, equating to more than 15 billion dollars according to the hustle. Although the company did not explicitly explain its decision, this matter was what likely prompted them to remove Twitter Blue.

Although the problem has since been solved, with a Twitter Blue relaunch and new measures in place to prevent impersonation, its consequences are likely irreversible. Since Musk’s takeover, half of the platform’s top advertisers, who paid the company two billion dollars for advertising on Twitter in the past two years alone, have ceased advertising on the app according to Media Matters for America.

Despite the aforementioned consequences, Musk has shown no signs of changing his approach, therefore, Musk may eventually be forced to turn to more questionable income sources in the future (eg: less trustworthy advertisers), which in turn may lead to trustworthy news sources leaving the platform.

Furthermore, the company itself has begun spreading what is essentially far-right propaganda, in the form of the “Twitter Files,” a collection of information supposedly hidden from the public by Twitter’s corrupt ex-employees. The first in the series attempted to show how the previous Twitter higher-ups censored information regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop, and therefore violated the first amendment. Except it failed to mention that the posts also contained nude photos of Hunter Biden published without his consent, and were therefore illegal.

The following entries in the saga contained similarly cherry-picked information, and even failed to deliver on the premise of revealing previously concealed information, as much of the contents were already available to the public.

But even if the Twitter Files were more consequential, they wouldn’t really matter; rather, the standard they set implies a dim future for the app. Twitter was originally intended to be or at least marketed as, a discussion space akin to a large-scale group chat – implying the company wouldn’t interfere to promote either side of the political spectrum. Although the company unmistakably leaned left in the past, it still allowed all sides of the political spectrum to have a substantial voice on the platform.

For example, a study done by Twitter Staff Machine learning Researcher Luca Belli divulged that their algorithm more frequently amplified voices from the right over the left. However, after Musk took over, the company has not only used the platform to advocate for the far-right with the Twitter Files but also banned numerous leftist accounts ranging from independent journalists to the Elm Brown John Brown Gun Club, a self-described “ anti-fascist, anti-racist, pro-worker community defense organization.” There is no information currently public regarding these suspensions, although both Business Insider and The Intercept have pointed to far-right wing groups like QAnon organizing mass reporting campaigns against these accounts being the cause.

Nonetheless, a spark of hope was ignited last month when Musk recently promised to step down as CEO following the results of a Twitter poll where he asked users if he should relinquish his position. But his inaction on that front and continuation of the “Twitter files” series in the form of the “Fauci Files” indicate that Twitter will continue on this unfortunate path as long as Musk owns it.

Assuming this is the case, Twitter will sooner or later become an echo chamber of far-right voices, therefore rendering the app useless as a news source. Even in the case that you do agree with the voices now becoming prominent on the app, I urge you to avoid following news on Twitter, as its sustained popularity will contribute to nothing but the spread of intense partisanship throughout the country.