By TIPP EDITORIAL BOARD, TIPP Insights
It is hard to digest that it has been only four weeks since Elon Musk took over Twitter by walking into the microblogging site’s offices with a sink.
In this period, the Left has gone wild, accusing Musk of every action as a betrayal. Some called Musk stupid and an idiot, a slander that doesn’t hold up to reality. Musk, the founder of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX, has forever changed three major industries of our lifetime. If anything, he is not stupid.
With the privileged blue checkmark confirming their identity, the elite has cringed at having to pay $8 a month for the same service. Adam Davidson, a journalist who helped found “Planet Money,” complained that others could impersonate him. “It felt scary to imagine a world where false verification would reign,” Mr. Davidson told the New York Times. Musk, the perfectionist, has agreed and announced today that he would hold off on the validation service until the problem is fixed.
Anything that Musk did to make his company profitable has been met with deep disdain. Twitter relies on advertising for 90% of its revenues, yet, it had not made a profit for the first twelve years of its founding. Other companies like Amazon also took their time before becoming profitable, but unlike the online retail giant, Twitter did not have to invest in massive physical assets like warehouses.
We said last April that a sense of elitism is what brought about Twitter’s downfall. Far from being the public square it was meant to be, the platform had become an exclusive club, with strict rules governing membership, access, and dialog. Employing the excuse of protecting the speech of the underprivileged, Twitter, under executives such as Vijaya Gadde and Yoel Roth, who oversaw policy, trust, and safety, engaged in what Roth calls “online sanitation.”
For all their efforts, which included punishing disinformation by permanently banning the likes of former President Trump, Twitter has continued to suffer from a trust deficit. In a TIPP Poll from October 2021, only 27% of Americans held a favorable opinion of the service. We found the distrust high across the board.
Last week, Musk polled users on whether Trump should be invited back in a quintessentially democratic act that the Left should have approved. By a narrow margin (52-48), over 15 million users surveyed said “Yes.” Within hours, Musk had reactivated Trump’s account, although Trump himself did not commit to returning, saying that he was pleased with Truth Social, his network, a perfectly reasonable decision.
Reuters should have celebrated Trump’s decision, given the news organization’s distaste for the former president and resistance to letting him back in. But Reuters couldn’t resist rebuking Musk: “Trump snubs Twitter after Musk announces reactivation of ex-president’s account.” In effect, the Left criticized both the poll (preferring instead that a few executives make such decisions) and the results of the survey. So much for the Left preaching about Democracy and the need to respect election results.
Twitter had about 7,500 employees before Musk took over, mostly trying to police speech. After a round of mass layoffs and firings, Twitter now has only about half its prior strength. The hashtag #RIPTwitter went viral, but Musk countered with his own “Twitter is ALIVE” weekend tweet, which has since received 1.4 million likes. Sporadic outages apart, the service is perfectly functional. Indeed, on November 22, Musk tweeted that Twitter usage has been at all-time highs since he took over.
The liberals are furious that Musk is taking their favorite glass-enclosed elite club and making the platform available to the masses. The attacks on Musk continue, surprisingly, all aired on Twitter. The goal is to kneecap the microblogging site and shut down the platform.
According to Reuters, a coalition of civil rights activists was urging Twitter’s advertisers to issue statements and pull their ads off the platform after Trump’s account was reinstated. The alliance says that 51 of the top 100 have paused ads and won’t rest until all do. “You need to take a stand and draw the line,” Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, said. “It’s important for big spenders to say they have stopped.”
In a New York Times op-ed, Yoel Roth, the former head of Twitter’s trust and safety, raised a new concern that could be a death blow to Musk. Roth speculated that Apple and Google, through their app stores, could limit Twitter service updates or even delist Twitter (like they did Parler). Imagine that. One technology company canceling another supposedly to provide “a safe experience for users.”
According to the New York Times, some journalists have even started an alternative platform called Journa.host, which promises to be a new “reliable home for journalists.” Good luck with that.
But Musk perseveres through all these impediments because he understands that a platform devoted to free speech that is legal in the various countries in which it operates, although awful, is still an aspiration that will win the hearts and respect of users.
The network effect is powerful. One can boycott all one wants, but doing so will mean one has to be excluded from the same connections that matter.
Just ask CBS News. The organization, in grand style, announced on its evening newscast that it was pausing tweeting on the service. Within 40 hours, it had reversed itself and was back on the platform.