I’ve finally motivated myself to setup a Mastodon account – I’m keeping my Twitter account but I wouldn’t be surprised that when Twitter is officially owned by Elon Musk that it’ll open the flood gates to the less than salubrious characters coming back to the platform in the name of ‘freedom of speech’. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “hang on, if the concern about freedom of speech is so widely felt then how come the right wing alternatives to Twitter have failed to gain mainstream adoption even with all the rich right wing sugar daddies bankrolling them?” good question and the answer is that far too many have equated noise by the rabble with the size of that rabble. The net result of this conflation? a lot of noise with very little momentum except from the most noisiest of MAGA devotees who numbers are incredibly small. Take Gab for example, how many accounts on there are actually active vs. people wanting slowly drive pass the train wreck to see what horrors are on show? in the case of gab there are 4 million accounts but only 100,000 active users.
I believe that in the long term if Elon Musk doesn’t play his cards right then he will find that in a couple of years time his $44B investment will be valued considerably less than what he bought it for particularly if he allows Twitter to turn into a toxic pit of depravity because he values free speech over creating a healthy community with clearly defined rules. How do I know this? because I’ve been a member of various internet forums (precursor to ‘social media’) and see them start off with utopian dreams of ‘freedom of speech’ where there was a light hand of moderation when it came to the rules which resulted in dishonest actors hijacking the forum and turning it into a place that repelled people away. The result of the ‘light on moderation’ created a death spiral of people leaving, advertisers stop advertising on said platform as key demographics that the advertisers wish to target leave the platform or choosing not to be associated with that particular online community.
The other concerning part are those who are involved in funding the buy out may not actually care whether or not it is profitable if it means that they have a platform at their disposal which they can leverage in the projection of soft power – Saudi Arabia has weighed in to provide funding (link). There is also Larry Ellison who has weighed in with his own $1 billion investment (link) – given the closeness he had (and might still possibly have) with the Trump administration (link) then you can imagine the political benefits of having a heavy influence over a large social media platform. Those involved will see it merely as a cost of doing business, that the benefits will materialise itself in other ways thus being a net positive for them when viewed holistically vs. just looking at the investment in Twitter in isolation.