Elon Musk, with his explosive tweets, fills the vacuum left vacant by Trump on Twitter

New York
CNN Business

Elon Musk has filled the void left by Donald Trump on Twitter, mirroring the former president’s behavior on the platform through his promotion of misinformation, his attacks on news outlets and his desire to rule by tweet.

Take Musk’s last 24 hours on the platform, for example: The billionaire gave credence to a fringe conspiracy theory about the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi. Then, when the media reported on his irresponsible behavior, Musk attacked them. He trolled the New York Times in a tweet and chastised The Guardian as a ‘far-left propaganda machine’ in other.

All the while, Musk has shown his desire to rule Twitter as an institution by tweeting. Like Trump, Musk eschewed the traditional, more formal style of corporate governance used by his predecessors. In fact, he blew up this model. Twitter has yet to issue an official press release (as far as I know) since Musk took over, but the platform has been making a lot of news.

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Instead of communicating through conventional means, Musk opted to deliver important news through seemingly off-the-cuff tweets – just like Trump. For example, Musk revealed that “the whole verification process is being overhauled” in a random reply message to a photographer. Normally, such an announcement would be deployed in a highly choreographed manner.

The concern over Musk’s behavior, however, is not about how he announces changes to the platform. It is recklessness in the way it operates.

Twitter is a major communications platform that plays an outsized role in our computing environment – and it’s a platform the billionaire now unilaterally controls. As steward of the platform, Musk has an implicit responsibility to make sure it doesn’t become, as he put it, a “hellscape.”

But since ascending to “Chief Twit,” Musk’s actions have suggested he just doesn’t care.

In fact, not only has Musk himself contaminated the computing environment he now reigns over, but he is apparently working to dismantle the little infrastructure erected to help users sift through the daily chaos. Recent reports, including from CNN, indicate that he plans to strip public figures and institutions of their verified blue badges if they don’t pay.

Billing for verified badges may appear at first glance to be a business story. But this decision will have important ramifications on the information landscape. Most notably, it will be much more difficult for users to distinguish between genuine and inauthentic accounts.

Maybe, though, that’s the point.

The right has for years lashed out at “blue checks,” which they see as elitist gatekeepers who control the conversation, even though many conservatives also wear blue badges. The removal of these free blue checks and the air of authority they lend to the profile to which they are appended will certainly please some conservatives.

Musk’s authorized biographer, Walter Isaacson, tweeted in 2018 that “the best thing” one could do to “save social media, the internet, civil discourse, democracy, email and reduce piracy would be to authenticate users”.

Now, nearly five years after his tweet, Musk is set to do the opposite for users who refuse to pay. That says a lot about how he handles Twitter.

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