Chaos at Twitter is mounting at rocket speed. Now, the company’s offices have been closed, and the hashtag #RIPtwitter is trending on the platform.
How did we get here in just a few weeks?
Soon after taking over, Elon Musk fired nearly half of Twitter’s staff, including the entire team dedicated to human rights, the accessibility team that tried to improve the experience of people with disabilities on Twitter, and the team working to reduce bias and harm. Then, key staff responsible for information security, privacy, and trust and safety resigned.
From the user’s perspective, the back and forth on account verification highlighted the chaos and the dangers. Over the span of a couple days, verification changed from a system aiming to avoid impersonation, to a product that anyone with eight clams could obtain, and back again (sort of).
While the flip-flopping momentarily resulted in some amusing satirical fakes, there was a serious side, too. Impersonation of certain individuals, like human rights defenders, can have deadly consequences.
Early this morning, with many staff refusing to accept Musk’s ultimatum to work “long hours at high intensity” or leave, the company closed its offices and cut badge access until Monday.
Many engineers – the ones that weren’t fired in previous weeks – are reportedly staying away. They are the people who fix the bugs, and there’s already some evidence, perhaps, that the platform is unstable, with outages sharply up.
The drama highlights the need to rethink social platforms in general. Twitter has become a kind of digital public square. As such, it’s too important for any one individual to control, and in need of democratic oversight.
Having spent a lot of time on Twitter over the past 14 years, I look at what’s happening with dismay – but have also taken action.
Like many people, I’ve been busy preparing a lifeboat on the alternative platform Mastodon, so I’m ready should the Twitanic ultimately sink beneath the digital waves.