Elon Musk Buying Twitter May save Social Media from Becoming a Toxic Wasteland
But at what cost???
We’ve all had a gut full of social media.
The current model is broken. The flow of information has become at risk of manipulation, although I genuinely think it hasn’t been … yet.
The unthinkable happened: Elon bought Twitter. I never thought in a million years it could happen. But it did.
Let’s dissect what it means because there’s good and bad news.
The weirdo that is Elon
I have a love-hate relationship with Papa Elon.
His ego is too much for me. I’m not sure his intentions in anything he does are pure. His beliefs are flimsy at best.
So when I found out he bought Twitter I had mixed emotions. If another person with the same goals had bought Twitter, perhaps, I’d be happier. Something tells me Elon could screw up the alchemy that is Twitter.
Twitter is one of the best apps on the internet because it doesn’t take much time to learn, it’s low friction, and it can be a great tool for online writers like me.
I love it. In the last year I’ve shifted lots of my focus over there. But now there’s a risk Elon screws it up.
The space lover is not everybody’s cup of tea. A divided society may react badly to Elon owning Twitter.
We’ve already witnessed Facebook aka Meta and the distrust of Mark Zuckerberg see their rise to glory destroyed.
No one trusts Zucks. Let’s hope trust in Elon doesn’t fade quickly.
The model for social media is broken
Yesterday I learned for the first time that most of the large Bitcoin influencers on Twitter are shadowbanned (they can post but their work can’t be recommended by the Twitter algorithm … freaking sneaky).
No one knows why.
Bitcoin is no longer taboo anymore. Some of the biggest companies in the world – KPMG, Goldman Sachs, Square, Tesla – are now onboard. Yet anyone who talks about this topic on Twitter can’t have their content seen by the masses.
That seems stupid, and there is zero transparency as to why.
Then there’s free speech
Twitter employees can decide what is or isn’t misinformation.
They can make harsh decisions about the conversations in society without consequences. They can ban a user based on their political beliefs or the color of their skin. It’s bloody ridiculous.
Web3 is hailed as the answer
Many people like me think social media should be rebuilt on Web3.
For those who don’t know, Web3 is simply a version of the internet built on blockchain technology. A blockchain is a public ledger anyone can audit with their computer.
The information is verified and can’t be corrupted. Think of a blockchain like a giant spreadsheet that confirms what did or didn’t happen that’s then reinforced with trillions of dollars and computing power.
Web3 could enable:
Content moderation done democratically. Users AND Twitter employees vote on what is or isn’t allowed.
Social media platforms would be owned by the users – not a handful of rich, white males.
All platform decisions would be transparent. Users would vote on features to build or takeaway, instead of a bunch of tech bros building what they want to serve their own interests.
Payments on social media would be enabled using crypto. Unbanked countries such as Africa could use social media and transfer money with crypto even if they don’t have a bank account. This brings back financial equality once and for all. Everyone can participate in the social media revolution.
The biggest change all content creators want to see
Creators are tired of giving their content and life’s work to social media apps and getting $0 for it – while the social media apps show ads against that content and get 100% of the money from it.
It’s exploitation. It’s unfair.
Some say the subscription model is better, and it is in some ways. But platforms that enable the subscription model can also exploit creators, too, and charge stupidly high fees for processing payments or for the use of a basic blogging platform.
Web 3 will allow for different monetization models.
People’s attention can be turned into tokens that allow them to consume content for free in return for ads they agree to see in their newsfeeds. The profits of these ads can also be distributed to creators. Revenue shares would be possible between creators, businesses, and charities.
Elon’s model (for now) is probably the right one
Web3 sounds great – and it is. The challenge is it’s not ready. Web3 apps still have poor user experiences and are clunky to use. Security is a risk. And trying to sign up for Web 3 apps with a crypto wallet isn’t intuitive.
That’s why no Web3 social media apps have come close to challenging Twitter.
What Elon proposes is to take Twitter private and do these things:
Open-source the algorithms to the public to bring back trust.
Defeat the spambots that run scams to users.
Properly identify people so we can trust that when we see a famous person’s Twitter account, we know it’s really them and not an impersonator.
Bring back free speech. Stop the shadow banning.
This is the best middle ground we can hope for until Web3 is mature enough to rebuild social media from the ground up.
Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey did promise to open source and decentralize Twitter, although no progress seems to have been made.
One thing Elon can do is get sh*t done without the delay of corporate politics.
The huge trade-off
My Twitter is full of people celebrating Elon’s big win.
There’s one thing everyone’s forgotten about: Elon will probably have to let a certain former US president back onto Twitter.
This is dangerous.
The man nearly started a civil war and undermined an election for the first time in history. Be careful what you wish for should be an alarm bell ringing in everyone’s head.
We may have got closer to a more transparent version of social media, without the nanny police trying to silence healthy debate. But the cost is potentially that we reinstate a mad man to gaslight the world and create an even bigger divide.
So I’d say Elon’s Twitter takeover is bittersweet. Moving society forward is never easy. But we must have a return of free speech.
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