Twitter exodus anticipated after Elon Musk takeover and Trump return – however is there a social media various?
It was confirmed this week by Elon Musk himself: if the richest man in the world succeeds in his bid to buy Twitter – the social media site he describes as a “digital town square” – then he will lift its ban on Donald Trump.
The £34.5bn offer from Musk to buy the platform was put temporarily on hold yesterday as the “free-speech absolutist” queried the number of spam Twitter accounts. But the deal had already infuriated some of the most vocal of the site’s 217 million active users, with hundreds of thousands beginnings of an exodus after it was announced.
Now it is expected that a Trump return would result in many more leaving the forum, both loved and hated by users who include a large share of the world’s politicians, journalists and celebrities. Stars like actress Mia Farrow have already said as much. “Well if Twitter becomes even more toxic – with Trumpy treasonous lies & all the hatred – it will be taken less seriously, and people like me will quit – for peace of mind’,” she tweeted.
Well if Twitter becomes even more toxic- with Trumpy-treasonous lies & all the hatred- it will be taken less seriously, and people like me will quit- for peace of mind.
— Mia Farrow??????? (@MiaFarrow) April 25, 2022
Musk’s plan was enough to send the likes of US-based British actress, presenter and activist Jameela Jamil straight to the exit. The star of US TV comedy series The Good Place posted a farewell tweet to her one million followers: “I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry and misogyny. best of luck.”
But research suggests the takeover may encourage others to join Twitter – and that it could even lead to a net gain in activity. A survey of 1,000 UK adults from consumer insight firm Toluna found that 14 per cent of active Twitter users said they would use the platform more with Musk in charge, compared with 5 per cent saying they would use it less or stop altogether.
Analytics website Social Blade also detected UK users going in both directions after the Musk deal was announced. Nigel Farage added 3,912 followers in a day. But Emma Watson, described by right-wing critics as “woke” for her embrace of progressive causes, lost 5,168.
Musk believes the permanent ban on Trump imposed by Twitter in January 2021 following that month’s riot in the US Capitol building “was a mistake”. “It alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” the Tesla owner said. The former president has said he is sticking with his own Truth Social app rival – for now.
But if a Trump return does prompt a digital walk-out from those unhappy with Twitter’s new direction, where else could they get the same instantly updated diet of breaking news, culture war rows, reinforced beliefs and occasional shafts of insight?
“Open source” social network Mastodon reported an influx of 30,000 new users in a single day after the Musk deal. The decentralized platform offers similar features to Twitter – messages have a 500-character limit, an advance on Twitter’s 280.
Elon Musk disapproves of censorship, paving the way for extreme accounts to be reinstated on Twitter (photo – PA)
With no central website, it invites users to choose their own server and join independent communities which can set up their own guidelines.
Mastodon gives users more control but its open source technology makes it less user-friendly.
Mastodon’s limited user base means it can’t replicate Twitter’s unique ability to disseminate information to millions of people and the ability to access conversations outside of your network by searching hashtags.
Plurk, the Taiwanese “social network for weirdos” and Aether, the discussion site where posts don’t last forever but disappear into the ether, now have their chance to scoop up disillusioned tweeters seeking something more bespoke.
The absence of a ready-made alternative is no doubt one reason why, rather than quit like Jamil, Lineker pleaded with Musk: “When we do disagree let’s try and agree to disagree agreeably.”
Others, like Dan Wootton – a presenter on the right-leaning GB News – are fully behind a Musk owned Twitter. “The left-wing outrage over Musk buying Twitter is hilarious,” he told i. “What are they scared of? Hearing the views of folk they don’t agree with? Twitter’s censorship has become out of control… We are losing decline of online debate and it’s chilling. “So look, do I have hope that Musk could usher in a new era of free speech on Twitter? Yes, I do.”
But Twitter’s scale and influence means it is too important to allow it to become a wholly unregulated cauldron of racism and misinformation, argues Imran Ahmed, CEO of campaigning the group, Center for Countering Digital Hate.
“We need lawmakers around the world to put proper regulation in place to ensure transparency and accountability,” he tweeted.
“To manage the harms a self-interested system’s produce, you need regulation to ensure companies share in the costs of the harm they produce, which disincentivises their production. Musk has exposed that in the most profound, explicit way.”
In the UK, Ofcom’s new powers allow it to seek more information about the algorithms that lie behind Twitter whilst Musk has been asked by MPs to explain how he “will balance his clear commitment to free speech with new obligations to protect Twitter’s users from online harms .”
To Musk’s delight, the argument is sure to rage on the very platform he is about to control.
The decentralized social network for people sick of Twitter. Donation-funded app, “by the people for the people”, allows users to “take back control of your social media” with each server having its own moderator and rules. Claims more than 500,000 active users with a huge surge in app downloads after the Musk deal.
A “kinder” social network, claiming not to permit bots, trolls, abuse, fake news, and “foreign influence operations” on the platform – Russia is blocked. Created by anonymous hacktivist The Jester, it is ad-free and doesn’t run promotional content.
Dominic Cummings’ favorite communication platform makes it simple for a writer to start an email newsletter that makes money from subscriptions. Writers charge around $5 (£4) a month or $50 (£40) a year for access to their newsletters. Promoting itself as an alternative to “journalistic totems of the last century”, the San Francisco-based firm, which takes a 10 per cent cut, claims more than 500,000 paying subscribers.
American microblogging service founded in 2018 has become associated with Donald Trump supporters, and conservatives. Describing itself as a “viewpoint-neutral social media dedicated to freedom of expression, civil discourse, and user privacy”, the app has recorded 11 million downloads.
Although news aggregation site doesn’t offer a scrolling feed of people to follow, it can still offer Twitter refuseniks among its 450 million users a bulletin board for curated topics based on their popularity.