Elon Musk Is Destroying Twitter
Paris Marx is joined by Matt Binder to discuss Elon Musk’s first six months at Twitter and how his obsession with blue checks has decimated the company’s finances.
Matt Binder is a reporter at Mashable and the host of Scam Economy and Doomed. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattBinder.
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Paris Marx: Matt, welcome to Tech Won’t Save Us.
Matt Binder: Thanks for having me.
PM: Absolutely, I knew that we needed to talk about Musk again. We’re at about six months and I figured who is a good person to have a conversation about this with? Of course, Matt Binder. Very happy to have you on the show. You’re always tweeting and writing about all the stuff that’s related to Elon Musk and Twitter. I’m sure nerve wracking and frustrating work, but essential at the same time.
MB: I appreciate it. Actually, I really enjoy it. The way I go at it I, obviously, see the various issues that actually harm vulnerable groups, but me personally, I’m having the time of my life.
PM: You know what — I get that. I hate this guy and I feel like my hatred fuels me. And I haven’t been doing the play-by-play of everything going on with the Twitter stuff. Certainly, I’ve been commenting on Twitter itself and things like that. But back in the days of 2017, 2018, 2019, when Tesla was basically a bonfire and was having its production hell, and everything was going to shit there. I was doing more of a play-by-play in that time and I was just loving seeing how he was fucking everything up with that company. So I’m sure it’s very similar for you right now with the Twitter stuff.
MB: What’s incredible is that, unlike his other companies, a lot of people are familiar with what makes a successful social media platform, people just outside of the business. It’s not like you’re making electric vehicles, or you’re shooting rockets up into space. Those are very niche industries and if you actually work in those industries, you don’t have many other places to go. Tesla and SpaceX are some of the top, if not the top companies, in that specific field. But when it comes to social media, and really any business to customer industry, it’s a lot different, and he is showing the world that he is not able to handle it. Obviously SpaceX gets most of its money from government contracts, subsidies, just straight up from investors. He’s not dealing with customers yet and when he does, when he does end up doing his space, vacations or whatever, it’s gonna be very rich people who do it.
It’s not like he’s going to be advertising on television and trying to make customers happy, it’s going to be millionaires and billionaires. Also, with Tesla it is a little bit different because Tesla was making a large chunk of its money, still does, not even from the sale of its cars, but from those carbon credits. And when they do sell vehicles, we’re still talking people who can afford to throw down $40,000-$60,000, not to mention all the add ons for features promised for the future. They really want that product. If you’re throwing that much money down, and you’re not getting it for months in some of these cases, then you really want that product. But Twitter is his first experience with the types of products and services, most industries deal with — that most everyday, normal, average, human beings are used to buying, selling, consuming. It’s pretty clear that he is completely in over his head when it comes to that.
PM: I think another big thing with Twitter, as well, is he was in the really early days of Tesla and he was one of the co-founders or whatever of SpaceX. So these companies are getting started and he’s there right from the beginning of them, and, as you say, there’s particular markets that they’re focusing on. But something like Twitter, this is a company that’s been around for over a decade or something, and he enters at this specific period in its history. People already have this long relationship with this company, this expectation of what it’s going to be like — to use Twitter, to use the service. He enters and it feels like he doesn’t really understand what is going on here. Like he has a preconceived notion of what Twitter is and how it should work, based on how he uses the platform, but he has no interest in really understanding how other people use the platform and what their experience might be and what they expect.
MB: I think the great example of exactly what you just mentioned, is the whole thing with the verification blue checkmarks. He came in and decided that he did not want to continue running the old verification system, where Twitter would actually reach out to notable users, celebrities, pro athletes, musicians, media figures. And verify ones that they felt had very good likelihood of being impersonated on the platform. He didn’t want to do that anymore. So he decided that one way to make money for Twitter, to drive revenue, would be to actually charge for that. And we could get into why that’s a bad idea, but to stick with your point about how he just came in and was like: It’s my way or the highway. Just think about how he marketed his product. Let’s just put aside at what we think about it, just think about how he decided to market the product. Instead of going out there and saying: Hey, here’s Twitter Blue for $8 a month, you get to edit your tweets everyone wants to do that the feature people been requesting forever and now it’s here.
Even though we all know that it was actually here before Musk, but let’s just follow his usual hype-man of bravado. He could bring that up the long tweets, the longer videos, but instead of hyping up the features, the benefits of Twitter Blue. It is market did as a way to antagonize the old blue checkmarked users. He’s literally in there, like Stephen King’s tweet threads, going: Hey, you’re gonna pay me $8. LOL, pay the $8. You could talk all the shit you want about me, but you’re still going to pay me $8! Listen, if you’re just out there to troll, that’s great. If you’re out there to make money, it’s the most ridiculous business plan I’ve ever heard in my life — to antagonize the users that you want to pay you with the product you want them to pay for. It makes no sense.
PM: You’re completely right. Some people like Elon Musk, some people don’t. But the whole idea: Is if you are buying into this product, you’re personally giving me money, is how he’s positioning this. Even at the same time, as he’s pissing off a whole load of people because of one, how he’s managing the platform, how he’s treating it. But on top of that, because he has really carved out a particular political niche for himself in the past year or so, where he’s become much more open about his politics, about embracing anti-trans people, about embracing right-wing conspiracy theories, about embracing the woke mind virus and wanting to go after that. It’s like: Okay, so if I’m paying $8, and you’re suggesting that it’s basically like supporting you, if I’m paying $8, then why the hell would I do that?
MB: Along with it being marketed as an F-U to the people, he wanted to pay. Exactly what you just said, it was also set up as: by buying it, you are announcing your support for me, Elon Musk, and my vision for Twitter. A lot of people don’t agree with that vision for all the reasons you just mentioned about his personal politics, but also actual Twitter policy, in terms of a lot of people don’t want all those accounts you are reactivating to comeback. A lot of people don’t want you to remove policies protecting marginalized groups. But here you are saying: Pay $8 and that’s your support, your thumbs up for this vision, it just doesn’t make any sense.
That’s even without getting into other obvious things such as, I’ve been comparing Twitter Blue to another premium service from another social media platform. Just a few months before Elon launched Twitter Blue, Snapchat launched their premium service, where you get extra features, like special stickers and things that other people don’t have for $4 a month. Now we’re six months into both Snapchat and Twitter Blue, six months into this Twitter Blue, has around 630,000 to 650,000 paying subscribers. That includes all the people he gave it to for free, which we’ll get to, and all the people who paid long ago, unsubscribed but can’t get rid of their checkmark. We could also get into that later, as well [both laugh]. So they have around, 650,000 paying subscribers and Snapchats premium service has three million paying subscribers. The reason for that, aside from Snapchat, obviously marketing it better, is that Snapchat’s features appeal to the user base better than Twitter’s features. If you want to go a step further, think about YouTube Premium, which is YouTube’s premium service, which has, I think, tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of paying subscribers.
What they did is even smarter. The benefits aren’t for the content creator, which is a very small portion of their user base, it is for the content consumer, which is like 99% of their user base. You pay for YouTube Premium, no ads on videos, what more could you ask for? That’s perfect if you’re a regular YouTube viewer. Twitter Blue, there is no benefit for people who just use Twitter to log in, follow their favorite celebrities, check out sports scores, see breaking news, they have no interest in posting ever, which is a lot of people. There’s no benefit for them. They don’t care about a checkmark. They don’t care about posting long tweets and videos. They don’t do that! They don’t even post short tweets and short videos. You’re basically creating a product that only benefits the smallest user base you have. Each level of Twitter Blue makes even less sense than the previous level. It’s just a bad business decision from him to bet the house on Twitter Blue.
PM: It shows the real incompetence behind it, not only for Elon Musk himself, but for his coterie of advisers that he brought in with him who are supposed to revolutionize and upend Twitter and make this new platform. But I want to reverse for a second there to go back to this initial hatred or dislike of the blue check that Elon Musk has. I don’t know if you feel this way, but I feel that at its core, this really comes down to Elon Musk’s hatred for journalists, and the fact that they were given blue checkmarks. He wanted to find some way to make it so that they did not get that any longer, and certainly he turned it into this power to the people thing where he was really leveling power — anyone could get it. But I feel like, for me, it’s not that he was really concerned that celebrities and sports players and stuff like that had checkmarks, it was because journalists had been given it, and he wanted to ensure they didn’t have it any longer. I wonder what you think about that and if you think that that was also a motivation for him?
MB: That’s spot on. I think even further than that, in terms of what you were saying, I don’t think he even thought about celebrities — Hollywood actors and world-wide music superstars — and the users that made Twitter what it was in the early days, who over the years have actually left the platform because of the various issues with them being able to deal with some of the worst people on it. An important thing to say first, before we get into this specific thing, is to actually set up Twitter’s place in the industry. Because Twitter is not a big tech platform, even though it’s often put in those upper echelons of the tech space. It’s not anywhere near as big as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, it’s nowhere near as big, user wise, as the biggest social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook.
It is pretty tiny compared to them. Those companies have like 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 800-900 million to a billion, two billion users. Twitter’s just hitting 250 million, according to Musk. Of that, a lot of them don’t even log into the platform on a regular basis. So it’s very small. But what puts Twitter among those groups, when we talk about it, is the particular makeup of its’ user base. Very early on, and funny enough — because of the verification system they set up in 2009 — Twitter attracted huge celebrities. I mean, I don’t know if you remember, but in some of the earliest days of Twitter it was all what were the Justin Bieber fans called again? I don’t remember.
PM: Uh, Beliebers?
MB: Literally, they had to put his tweets on their own server because they we’re getting so much, interactions and stuff. The reason celebrities flocked there was because in 2009, Twitter rolled out this verification system for celebrities, because they were facing a lawsuit from a former Major League Baseball player who was upset that there were accounts parodying him or impersonating him on the platform. So they set up this verification system, basically, to make sure that celebrities fans weren’t getting scammed and falling for fake accounts. It was no more than that. Because of that, celebrities came here. I still see the tweets in my head of celebrities constantly having to say: No, facebook.com/is not me. My only platform is Twitter; it’s the only place you can find me. No, not youtube.com/ is not me posting videos there. Twitter is where I am. That’s it. You can’t talk to me anywhere else.
Because Twitter was the only place that got involved in saying: Hey, this person on this platform, that’s actually them. There’s nobody else that can claim that on this platform. They liked that and that’s what made them use Twitter. They brought their fans on here, because what better way to attract a user base than letting your biggest users bring everybody here. I mean, it was easy-peasy for them. That was a huge driver for Twitter.
Back to Musk. Now, with the verification badges. I don’t think he thought of these people, because he clearly acquired Twitter from the standpoint of this right-wing bubble he’s in. When he tried to back out and Twitter sued him — as part of that lawsuit, we got to see some of his private text messages that had to be released as part of the lawsuit. He had to submit texts that he had regarding the Twitter sale. Among those text messages were numerous texts quite clearly stating the really right-wing driven reasons he bought the website. One example that pops to my mind is the earliest text he received flat out asking him to buy Twitter, was from his ex-wife, Talulah Riley, whose claim to fame is, — other than being a rich socialite — was that she was an actress in Westworld on HBO. She texted him, asking him to do something, and flat out, threw out: Hey, maybe we just buy it.
She was asking Musk to do something about the Babylon Bee being suspended from Twitter. Literally the Babylon Bee, at least according to these text messages, was one of the reasons why this interest in buying Twitter was even sparked. It’s incredible to think of that, but this is the laser vision he has for Twitter, all the way from why he bought it to his vision for the platform. He’s not thinking of anything outside of this political right-wing bubble he’s in.
PM: And to be clear, the Babylon Bee is a right-wing version of The Onion, that is not actually funny. That’s fascinating. I didn’t go through the text messages very much. I do remember Jason Calacanis tweeting, or texting him very clearly, that this was an opportunity to gut the workforce and fire a bunch of people and all of that is in there too, right?
MB: Oh, he went even more than that. He was like: What can I do to be CEO? I will fall on my sword for you, my liege [laughs]. It was really like, rich dudes groveling to richer dudes. It was amazing to see.
PM: It was a bunch of evidence of the degree of sucking up that happens toward Elon Musk, because he’s such a wealthy and influential guy and there’s so many other rich people who just want to be close to him, who just want him to say: Yes, you’re doing a good job, you can work with me, you can be close to me. It’s really pathetic, basically. Obviously, as we’ve been discussing, Elon Musk turns checkmarks into this paid service. People know by now that it initially launches, it’s a complete shit show and then it relaunches again later. He has some people who are paying eight bucks a month in order to get a checkmark an other people, who still had the checkmark from before.
They’re still allowed to keep it for a while. Then finally, he announces that that is going to change on April 1st, and that is delayed until April 20th, But it’s finally removed. So what is sparking him to finally remove it at this moment and what is his goal? At least initially, he was planning to take the checkmarks away, they’ve come back for some people, as I’m sure you can tell us about. But what is the actual goal with this service? Is there any way to say it’s working out to any degree that he imagined or believed it would?
MB: When Elon Musk bought Twitter, he was buying a company that 90% of their revenue is generated via advertisements. I believe the last public record or revenue numbers announced by Twitter is from 2021. And they generated five billion dollars in revenue that year, and of that five billion, 4.5 billion came from advertisers. The other 500 million came from, API fees and partnerships like that. So we’re talking about a company that their bread and butter is ad sales. Musk buys Twitter, and because of who he is, and what he’s planning to do with it, advertisers, totally makes sense, rightly, get scared. They have their own brand to protect. They get cold feet, or they flat out don’t want to think about the car companies, who are making electric vehicles. Why would they fund one of their competitors? They’re just like: Okay, we’re not advertising on Twitter anymore.
So half of Twitter’s biggest advertisers just up and leave shortly after Elon Musk acquires Twitter. They have not come back. There’s been recent reporting — with sources from the digital ad agencies that actually help these brands facilitate these ad buys — that those advertisers are not coming back. The few that did come back, or the ones that never left, are spending 80% less with Musk, than they did previously, I should say. They’ve cut back their advertising dollars on Twitter, 80% with Musk at the helm. So even among the people, like Apple and Disney, who didn’t just outright jump ship. They’re not spending as much. So he’s trying to figure out how he’s going to make money and for him, he just thought that subscriptions make sense.
I can tell you, unless you’re running a really niche service, subscriptions don’t make sense. You’ll never make enough with subscriptions as you could with advertising dollars. Just look at, for example Netflix, probably the most successful subscription business on the planet. Even they’ve hit the ceiling and they’re trying to figure out what to do. And they go: You know what, we finally got to start selling ads and we’ll launch a cheaper plan that does have ads. Because they know that ads is where it’s at. Even look at the cable industry — live entertainment, sports, live shows, like WWE World Wrestling Entertainment — they get tons of money offered to them for the fees for specific networks to carry them because everyone’s watching streaming services now.
For cable, live TV is the big moneymaker because they can sell ads on those and people can’t DVR it and fast forward. They gotta watch it live, it’s live sports can’t get it spoiled. So ads are super important, especially if you’re looking into making tons and tons of money, Small indie publication, yeah, don’t deal with advertisers just sell subscriptions. Big company, you got to sell that. So to hope that you will make up $4.5 billion via subscriptions is just a losing strategy to begin with, especially when you paid $44 billion for the website. I think that was really, honestly, his hope with Twitter Blue and you can tell that he’s really doubling down and not giving up on that. Because after it’s become pretty clear that Twitter Blue will never be what he hopes it to be. He’s doubled down with this other Twitter feature that existed previously, but he has since rebranded and now he’s focused his efforts on it.
That’s this service called Subscriptions, which used to be called Super Follows. And it basically allows Twitter users to subscribe to exclusive content from specific Twitter creators — you would get paywalled tweets, private Twitter spaces, which is their audio chat feature. You basically just subscribe to individual users. Now, previously, under the old Twitter, it was called Super Follows, and the reason you might not have heard of it is because it just didn’t take off. It just didn’t do any good. Twitter was never able to really make it catch on. Now, you could argue they didn’t really focus on it as much, but it is what it is. Under Musk, it’s very clear that he’s focusing on it now because he is using it himself, and also subscribing to other users who are using it who’ve turned on subscriptions on their own account for their fans to subscribe to.
He’s doing that because it appears in people’s feeds, so it promotes the service. I really think that’s the main reason he’s subscribing to other users, but for himself, it’s also that reason. I’m sure because he actually tweeted out a screenshot — and I’m assuming he did it purposefully — he claimed it was just to show or direct users where to apply for the subscription feature on your account. But in that screenshot, it showed how many paying subscribers he had. It showed that he had around 24,700. Now it’s somewhere between 24,720 and 24,799 because Twitter just shows 24.7k, and he charges $4 a month for it. Basically, he’s making something like $95,000-$97,000 a month from this.
For you or me, that’s like holy shit, life changing money — we’d be set forever! That’d be it. I would just focus on making those exclusive tweets for as long as those people stayed subscribed. But for him, we’re talking like $1.2 million a year, that’s chump change. It’s playing it up for him. I mean, that’s nothing. Again, he’s just doing to promote the service and you could assume that if Elon Musk only has less than 25,000 paying subscribers, he’s the anomaly too. It’s not like anyone has more than him. He’s the most followed user on Twitter. He’s only been able to get, I believe, .018% of his followers to subscribe to become paying subscribers. I mean, you could also probably assume that the Venn diagram of those 25,000 people who subscribed directly to him, and the people who subscribed for Twitter Blue is a perfect circle. You’ve got to believe they’re all subscribed.
PM: Oh, absolutely.
MB: Who else can even pull in numbers even close to what he is? Mr. Beast? Twitter is just not the platform for that type of stuff. I wouldn’t start a membership service on Twitter. It’s just not built for that, in my opinion. I know they’re trying to build out that feature more, but I just can’t see it taking off honestly. This is not even a political stance, this is straight up from a product standpoint. It’s just not what people have come to see Twitter as over the 13-14 years it’s now been in existence.
PM: Subscriptions or Super Follows, or whatever you want to call them, it’s just not what Twitter as a platform is made for. If you want to do something like that, you go to Patreon, or one of those platforms, that is actually set up. That is dedicated to that.
MB: Or Substack, which Elon loves.
PM: Twitter is not the platform for that, but Elon Musk very much wants it to be because he doesn’t really have a clear idea of what Twitter is. He’s trying to figure out something that actually works, something that might make some money, but also work out. And you can see how, as you were saying, the ad revenue has completely plummeted and these subscriptions are not going to make up the difference. It’s not going to get him back up to a breakeven or something like that. As much as he says that Twitter is definitely close to doing that by the end of the quarter, or whatever. I think we can see that we’re not actually believing the figures that he’s putting out there. And of course, Elon Musk is known as someone who is not very much a reliable figure when it comes to telling the truth, especially in business matters.
MB: I know when I’m doing financially well, the first thing I do is not pay my rent.
PM: Yeah! And let myself get sued and my employees in Singapore get kicked out of the office because I haven’t paid the rent. That’s exactly what everyone does when they’re doing really well. I wonder, obviously, you say, the people who are subscribing to Elon Musk personally, like, who the fuck are these people? Do you have any insight into the type of people who are subscribing to Twitter Blue, and subscribing to Elon Musk, personally? What should we be expecting there? What are the people that he’s actually attracting to pay for the service that is clearly uninteresting to most people using the platform?
MB: Now, we don’t have too much on the people who are directly subscribing to Elon Musk’s private, exclusive, paywalled content. Perhaps that will come out in the coming months. Though, what we do have — thanks to this great independent researcher, Travis Brown, who has been tracking Twitter Blue subscriber data since earlier this year via Twitter’s very own API — so the numbers are legit. The only caveat is just how much he’s able to pull from users who just might not be tweeting that much, so their stuff isn’t appearing. which, he’s able to thankfully due to leaks that have come out. It’s been a while, actually, since we got a nice Twitter Blue subscriber official leaked numbers from Twitter. But because of the ones we did have, he’s able to estimate exactly just how much he’s missing because his numbers, during that period, were very close to the actual official leaked numbers.
So Travis Brown has been tracking these and I’ve been in touch with him, and I’ve been doing a number of pieces based on his data. There’s a number of really interesting different points to take out of this data. For one, half of Twitter Blue subscribers, half of the people who pay $8 a month to Elon Musk. It comes with all those features. But I think we’ve got a pretty good idea that for most users, most Twitter Blue subscribers, the main killer features are one, the blue checkmark, and two, the priority they receive in the algorithm where their tweets get extra boosts, I guess you could say, into the default For You feed, and in the replies to tweets. If you check any tweet now, the first replies are always people with the blue checkmark with honestly the dumbest shit opinions you could possibly have. It’s amazing. It’s like the worst content you’ve ever seen.
PM: Really improving the user experience. A website I definitely want to pay for.
MB: Again, I’m not even talking politically, I would prefer my For You feed, just be filled with the hilarious garbage that comes out of Jordan Peterson and Charlie Kirk’s mouth, then the absolute bottom-feeding crap I see now, from the dumbest people alive. I would prefer the right-wing stuff filling my feed because at least it’s relevant to my interests. I’d be able to dunk on it. It’s right there, I don’t gotta go searching for stuff, but it’s not even that. Remember the old bumfight videos from the 90s. It’s like garbage like that, just filling up your feed. Crappy viral videos, crypto-hype, AI threads about how AI is the future and it shows a video of an AI you could unmistakably confuse it for a human, and then you actually watch the video and it’s the most robotic shit you’ve ever seen in your life.
PM: You’ve got to get your AI hustle bro advice as well.
MB: It’s not even like “I’m against Musk politically.” No, it’s more so that he’s turning the platform into garbage. So back to the Twitter Blue data. Half of Twitter Blue subscribers have less than a thousand followers, 20% of them have less than 100 followers, and something like thee thousand of them have, I think, zero. So what does that mean? Now, of course, there are probably really great, funny, accounts out there that create great content that just have not gotten discovered and haven’t blown up. Sure, sure, sure. They’re probably not the ones subscribed to Twitter Blue based on the content we see from Twitter Blue subscribers, but I just want to put that out there.
So I’m not dunking on people for follower number account. But the fact is that what we’re seeing is that the people buying this stuff — who’s buying Twitter Blue, I should say — are people who just have not been able to organically build a following, because they just suck at creating content for Twitter. They truly believe that the thing that’s been holding them back in their view — like they don’t know, they suck, obviously — in their view, the thing that was been holding them back this whole time, is that they did not have the blue check. That it was the blue check that made these users big, they haven’t completely backwards.
It’s kind of hilarious that they see someone like Beyonce, and they don’t think to themselves: Oh, Beyonce got the blue check, because she’s a huge global phenomenon, a huge superstar. No, they think that: Oh, Beyonce is as big as she is on this platform, becausee she has the blue check. That’s just like the most backwards thinking that you can imagine. But it’s clear that that’s what they believe and you don’y yet even just guess that. You just look anytime Elon tweets about Twitter Blue offering this algorithm boost — the replies to his tweet, I should say —are just filled with people complaining: Elon! Elon! I’m paying for Twitter Blue in my tweet still just get one like. Yeah, man, because your content sucks. Daddy can’t help you with this one.
PM: It’s not even just the accounts with hardly any followers, though. Even some of the bigger right-wing accounts are constantly complaining about how the algorithm is still suppressing them and they’re not getting the views, even though they’re paying for Blue. They’re being enhanced, or whatever the word is, by the algorithm because they’re paying, and because they’re some of the accounts that Elon likes. But you can never even please them, let alone the people who have no followers and no views.
MB: The algorithm is going to do what it does. If it’s a breaking news thing, or something that you know is gonna really hit with your audience and then get retweeted, like you could tell then. But in terms of the majority of the random tweets we regularly post, you never have any idea which are going to take off. I’ve had tweets that I just throw out there, and all of a sudden it’s got thousands and thousands of retweets and likes. Then there’s other times where I post something, and you could just see that the algorithm didn’t grab it, it didn’t get through the feed because it just got not much interaction. It is what it is, you just try again next time. But these guys obsess over these numbers. I just don’t care. That’s not how I judge things by like, when I have a hit tweet, do I notice it? Sure. But it’s that type of tweet that I pay attention to. If one doesn’t take off, it’s just like: Oh, on to the next! But these guys obsess over the tweets that don’t do good and they get angry about it and they complain to the manager about it. It’s just very bizarre behavior.
PM: It shows the niche community that is really interested in this too. If you’ve upended the whole verification system around the idea that it was these elites that were getting access to blue checks, and we need to make it so it’s accessible to everybody. Everyone has the opportunity to get this growth and this status that these people have before. Then they pay into it and that’s not actually what happens because that’s not how it worked in the first place. Like it shows how the whole idea is completely backwards from the beginning. I want to take us back to April 20th, not that long ago. This is the date when Elon Musk finally took the legacy blue checkmarks away. Do you want to give us some insight into what happened there, both with the taking away, the giving back, the whole campaign to start blocking blue checks, like what is going on here? And how is Elon Musk, in particular, responding to all these things because nothing is clearly working out as he expects?
MB: Now, we’re getting into the really funny stuff. So April 1st, he said the removal of the blue check was gonna happen, it didn’t. April 20th comes around, which was shortly after April 1st, he said it would be April 20th, and lo and behold, he did something shocking, and that’s actually deliver on a promise. For him that’s a rarity. So take it when it comes.
PM: He did delay it plenty of times though, which is his M.O.
MB: But this he one delivered, which you can’t say for full self-driving cars or our landing on Mars. So April 20th rolled around, the legacy verified blue checkmarks are taken away on all the accounts, but three. Now, remember at this point it’s supposed to be just people paying for Twitter Blue with these blue checkmarks. But people noticed that three accounts that were clearly not paying for Twitter blue because of their previous public statement saying they weren’t going to pay for it. These people were William Shatner, Stephen King, and LeBron James. Now, William Shatner we could put aside right now because it’s clear via these tweets that Shatner and Musk exchanged that, seemed like Musk contacted him privately before April 20th, and offered to give him Twitter Blue for free. Because William Shatner tweeted out a vague thank you to Musk and Musk was like: You’ll always be my captain. And clearly very happy to be checkmarked for free
PM: Jeff Bezos brought him to space; Elon’s given him checkmarks. He’s loving this. They’re all obsessed with him.
MB: Not to go off topic here too, but the whole William Shatner going to space thing is wonderful because — I know he probably does’t have the best politics — but when he went to space, the experience he shared was fantastic. It really was a slap in the face to both Musk and Bezos, and what they want their space adventures to be because, again, I don’t want to go off topic, but I feel like I have to mention this because I love the story so much. Shatner comes back down to Earth after traveling to space with Jeff Bezos, and he gets interviewed. He’s asked what he experienced. Everyone was expecting to be like: Oh, Captain’s log, the journey into space. It was fantastic. The adventure awaits us, I loved it. It was amazing.
But no, he was like: I had a life-changing experience. He was like: I looked out and I just saw nothing. It was just a vast nothingness. Then I looked down at Earth and it was so beautiful. It made me think: We have everything we could ever need right there. Why are we destroying it? And I got so depressed, and I just felt this sad darkness overwhelm me. Then Bezos interrupts him with popping a cork of some champagne, and completely destroys the moment. But this shouldn’t be the takeaway, that we should all take from this. But of course, that wouldn’t be the best advertisement for space vacations with Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
PM: It’s no wonder Bezos wanted to shut him up.
MB: So Shatner gets his checkmark for free, maybe a bonus after his experience in space. But LeBron and Stephen King were adamant: We don’t want this. This is stupid. We don’t even want you to give it to us. In fact, we know LeBron didn’t say that because according to reports, I think The Verge reported this one.
PM: Alex Heath, I think.
MB: Yeah. Musk — I guess much like he contacted the Shatner or Shatner’s people — Musk contacted LeBron, and before April 20th, and was like: Hey, I want to pay for your check mark. I want to offer to you for free. LeBron was straight up like: No, thanks. I don’t want it. Musk gave it to him anyway. I don’t know if Musk tried the same thing with Stephen King, but based on Stephen King’s reaction when he did get it. He was like: Why do I still have the blue check? I don’t want it. I didn’t pay for it. Don’t give it to me. Musk admitted that he was paying for those three people. When he says paying, we really should say upfront, he’s not paying for anything. He’s just telling his Twitter employees: Hey, put that checkmark on these accounts. It’s not like he’s given $8 out of his wallet.
PM: Even though they show up, it still says if you click on them, that they are paying. Which is an issue that I’m sure we’ll get to.
MB: I will say that the Stephen King one is especially funny, because early on in like November, when Musk first brought up the idea of paying for the checkmark and Stephen King came out and said it was dumb. Musk was like: Well, what’s wrong paying $20? And they went back and forth and haggled down to Elon Musk jumping in and going: Oh, what about $8, would you pay $8?
PM: Yeah, that’s where the $8 comes from, is those tweets.
MB: Right, that’s where the $8 comes from. But apparently, Musk is the ultimate deal negotiator and Stephen King was able to negotiate Musk down to negative $8 [laughs].
PM: [Continued laughter]
MB: So those three accounts have it on April 20, and then the next day is Friday, April 21st, and I have this piece ready to go. Now, I had planned it because I knew that this would be a piece to publish right after the blue checkmark thing. I had known that this was going to be a thing. People blocking everyone with a blue check after the legacy-verified checks were taken away. So there could be no mistake over who was paying for Twitter Blue, because it started to go around in November. Now in November, people started talking about blocking these users, I don’t know who started the hashtag, maybe it was Dril.
But certainly the largest account that tweeted it “#blocktheblue,” was Twitter legend, Dril, who has this huge Twitter account. Probably, in my opinion, the biggest self-contained, self-made Twitter user. Dril has over 1.7 million followers. And yeah, there’s been various people who have come to Twitter and have created careers off of their tweets, off of Twitter. Rob Delaney is a great example. But Dril never took that step off of Twitter. Yeah, he had that Adult Swim show, but he was still playing his Twitter character in the Adult Swim show. This guy became the biggest Twitter user, just from his tweets. He tweeted, “#blocktheblue,” first and went really big in November.
I was like: I know this is going to be big after this happens. I reached out to him, I sent him a bunch of questions. He got back to me; he answered a bunch of questions. When that happened, I knew of course, that: Man, I have Dril content that has yet to be published, people are going to eat this up. I got Eve6, the 90s rock band, “want to put my tender heart into blender.” They have been prominently tweeting about blocking the blue, so I got comments from their singer. I featured a bunch of other users. The piece went up that Friday, April 21st, and it immediately went viral, and had tens of thousands of likes and retweets, in just a short amount of time.
Later that night and into the next morning, Saturday morning now, “#blocktheblue,” is trending on Twitter. When you click it, the feed is being refreshed with dozens of new tweets every couple of minutes. It was clearly becoming a thing. I knew it was starting to get noticed over at Twitter HQ when I saw that Elon Musk himself was starting to like tweets that mentioned, “#blocktheblue,”. One tweet was from the old school tech-evangelist, Robert Scoble — people might remember him. His claim to fame in the very early days of Twitter was being the guy who single-handedly killed Google Glass, when he took that selfie of him wearing it while he was completely nude in the shower.
PM: I, unfortunately, do remember that and we had an episode on Google Glass a few months ago.
MB: Right. I should say Robert Scoble, actually, in the tweet Elon Musk liked from him. Scoble had actually included a screenshot of my article with my byline in it. I enjoyed knowing that Musk definitely saw that. He didn’t just see “#blocktheblue;” he definitely was aware of my article.
PM: We know he’s already aware of you from Twitter spaces in the past and things like that.
MB: I guess I should mention that he already knew me because in December of last year, I was one of the seven journalists specifically targeted after we reported on the ElonJet tracker that got suspended from the platform. Then I was also the person, seemingly, personally responsible for Twitter Spaces going down for an entire day. Because when I was suspended, I discovered a loophole that still allowed me to not only enter the Twitter Space’s audio chats, but also take part in them. And so after they found that out, they booted me out of it and shut down Twitter Spaces. So he probably was aware of me before that, an actual legitimate confirmation with that like on the tweet. But my favorite was the the Tim Sweeney tweet, and people don’t know who Tim Sweeney is. Please keep this in mind when I read this tweet here because you need to keep this in mind when you hear what he had to say.
Tim Sweeney is the founder and CEO of Epic Games, one of the biggest video game companies on the planet. They’re the company behind Fortnight. This guy must be a billionaire himself. So here’s Tim Sweeney’s tweet that Musk liked: People in this #blocktheblue pressure campaign are losers and goons. They’re the cool kids from junior high who worked to exclude we, nerds, from cool kid events. So just really remember that here’s Elon Musk, liking the tweet that ostensibly is for him, but it’s still a tweet that outright says the people who pay for Twitter Blue are the losers and nerds from junior high, and the people who are blocking them are the cool kids from junior high who attended all the cool hip party.
PM: Can’t get better than that.
MB: The master marketer of Twitter Blue, right. Buy Twitter Blue so you can be stuffed in your locker.
PM: Oh man, when I saw that tweet, I was like: This indicates so much about this guy, but also how can these tech people who are so fucking rich, they can do whatever the hell they want. But they’re still obsessing over their little high school squabbles and the fact they weren’t cool kids and all this kind of stuff.
MB: Not even high school — junior high!
PM: Junior high, yeah. Even more pathetic [laughs].
MB: This is a complete side note. But I’ve always been absolutely enamored by people who can’t get over — whether it’s junior high school, even college — adults who obsess over their experience in college, high school. Very bizarre behavior to begin with, but for a super successful rich guy to obsess over it. It’s just it really tells you a lot about where their mindset is. You can’t buy what they want. I mean, that’s Elon Musk in a nutshell. He wants to be liked. He wants to be funny. He wants to be a poster. And he just doesn’t have it, just billions of dollars, and you can’t buy that. You just can’t.
PM: No, it’s a really good point. I think it’s essential to understand the psyche of Musk. Just to return to that whole affair for a second. Basically what happens is blocked the blue takes off, Elon Musk personally gets very offended by this. So he puts the blue checks back on to all these accounts with over a million followers.
MB: Well, hold on. He first put it on just Dril and myself because he was very clear, I saw it happen in real time. I was at my kids first soccer game of the season, my seven year old, and my phone starts going crazy, I go on there. Everyone is screenshotting me and Dril’s account. Musk had tweeted, maybe a few hours earlier: “Check mate.” Two separate words: “Check mate.” People were trying to figure out what he meant by that. I had a feeling he was going to address it somehow. Someone said to me: Do you think he’s going to put the check mark on you guys?They said that before he did it. I was like: I don’t think so because that would actually be very funny, and that’s not Musk. Then he did it. I actually had to reply: I stand corrected. Elon Musk has done his very first funny thing. I had to hand it to him.
It was very funny that he did it to Dril and I. He had a great back and forth moment with Dril, because if you subscribe to Twitter Blue, even if you pay if you change your username, or maybe your profile name, the name on your account like not the ad handle, just the text name above your ad handle, or you change your profile picture, they temporarily removed the blue checkmark until they can manually review it. So you can’t buy a blue checkmark, get it and then change your account to make it look like somebody else, so you can impersonate them. So Dril, using that method, he was consistently changing his profile name to remove the blue checkmark and Twitter was consistently putting it back on him, back and forth.
Then eventually, I guess whoever had the honor of being the guy or girl who had to sit at Twitter HQ doing that all day, eventually they had to go home for today I guess. Dril’s account is currently stuck in limbo. His profile is completely locked, he can’t change his profile details because he doesn’t currently have the blue check. But he’s technically subscribed to Twitter Blue, so he can’t change anything until they manually review it. I should say at first, they just put the blue check on our account. It said I was not subscribed to Twitter Blue, it was just the visual the blue check. But then the next day, they actually officially subscribed me to Twitter Blue. I actually have access to all the Twitter Blue special features that people pay for. I can make the long tweet, I can upload the long videos.
PM: You can use the bold and the italic text.
MB: So back to Saturday now, though, so after he puts it on me and Dril, all of a sudden, maybe like 20-30 minutes later, then I noticed Hasan Piker gets the blue check. Then little by little, it becomes clear that almost every user with over a million followers has gotten a blue checkmark. I say almost because it appears like there were specific people singled out not to get one, like former Twitter CEO and founder Jack Dorsey, which is very funny. He did not get a blue checkmark even though he has close to five million followers. They did not make carve outs for deceased celebrities, like Norm Macdonald, Anthony Bourdain.
PM: Or journalists.
MB: Oh, like Jamal Khashoggi from Washington Post. Their accounts even appeared with the blue checkmark. I really want to point this out too. A lot of people in their coverage have been saying: Oh, these celebrities got their blue checkmarks back. That’s not correct. They didn’t get the blue checkmarks back because the ones on their account now, do not have the same tag that the ones they previously had do. Before, back when there were both checkmarks under the old system and under Twitter Blue, if you clicked on someone who got verified under the old system, it says: This user is legacy verified, because they may or may not be notable. If you were subscribed to Twitter Blue, it just said this user is verified because they subscribe to Twitter Blue.
These new checkmarks, are the only ones that exists now, simply say: This user is subscribed to Twitter Blue, and verified their phone number with Twitter. Now, these celebrities have done neither — they’ve not paid for Twitter Bue; they have not verified their phone number. There have been a number of pieces speaking to different sort of legal experts saying that some of these celebrities, if they wanted to pursue this could possibly have a case. Because by doing that for them, it makes it look like they are advocating for this product or service, even just by the fact that they would be a user of it, proudly sporting this Twitter Blue badge on their account. Their fans or followers may see this and go: Oh, so and so is using this service, I’m going buy it too.
When they don’t want to endorse this service. Some of them have made it quite clear that they do not want to endorse this service, and now they have it.I’ve been approached by a few people asking me if I had any intention of pursuing it. I’m probably one of, if not the smallest, account that got it. I just have around 140,000 followers. My damages are nil, if anything, I probably am the one user who benefits. I would much prefer seeing a big celebrity who actually would have an argument that they’ve been greatly damaged by this pursue this, because it’s not my place for it. So I look forward to covering that if that happens, but it was just a crazy series of events that happened this past weekend.
PM: Can you imagine a class action lawsuit of a bunch of celebrities and major sports players going after Twitter because Elon Musk stuck checkmarks on them and said that they were subscribing and had registered their phone number with the company when it’s all a load of bullshit.
MB: You’ve got to believe someone’s going to pursue it. I haven’t heard anything, so I’m not saying I have some sort of insider information. People pursue all sorts of things, especially if it’s a class action lawsuit or someone that, people pursue all sorts of things. There’s going to be somebody who thinks of doing it.
PM: Absolutely. As we start to wind this down, we’ve talked about a bunch of the issues that Twitter has had over the past six months, and in particular focused on Elon Musk’s obsession with the blue check marks, and with transforming the service so that he could take blue check marks away from the people who didn’t want to have them, essentially. But, as all those problems have been happening, we’ve seen a number of alternatives to Twitter, potential alternatives, present themselves as the ones that a bunch of people are going to join. Obviously, Mastodon was one of the early ones that after Musk took over, there was a big exodus to Mastodon. It doesn’t seem like it took the place of Twitter. There were some people who moved over, there some people who liked it, who founded a new community, but it didn’t really take away from Twitter. Most people were still on there.
Post, of course, is another one that promised to be more for journalists and things like that, that doesn’t really seem to have gotten much traction. Substack Notes, most recently, already seems to be running into trouble with the fact you can’t follow people. You can only subscribe to their newsletters and the CEO there has come under fire for some stuff he said around content moderation that people are not super happy with. The latest one, of course, is Bluesky Social or as some users are calling it “blue ski,” which is also founded or funded by Jack Dorsey, who is also responsible for Twitter.
This is the most recent one. It still claims to have this kind of decentralized ethos, like a Mastodon. But in the past couple of days, we’ve seen a lot of major Twitter users move over to this one, and suggest that maybe this is the one that finally dethrones Twitter or takes away a lot of its active user base that a lot of people are there for. What do you think about the suggestion that because Elon Musk has imperiled Twitter so much, has destroyed the experience of what it used to be, that there might be a platform that can really take it over? Do you think that Bluesky is potentially the one that might do it?
MB: I think it’s going to be very hard to replace Twitter and that’s going back to what we talked about at the very beginning of this discussion. It’s different than their other social media competitors in the space. TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, those are platforms based on multimedia sharing — you got to create videos, you got to take photos. The amount of time it takes just to get a post up due to that reason of. It takes a little bit more to post on those sites. Twitter is a platform that very easy to just see something, read something, and want to get an opinion out there. You could do it in seconds, just throw out text.
Unlike Facebook, it’s not walled in. Everything is publicly available unless you specifically private your individual account. But other than that, everything is open to anyone to find. So I do think it will be hard to actually replace Twitter, a lot of people use it. It’s especially popular within the news media space, which makes it very friendly to journalists and media figures and political discussion. So Musk would need to continue to really mess with the platform. I mean, honestly, if he just continues with the Twitter Blue stuff — shoving all those accounts in people’s feeds — I do think it’ll eventually happen, people can only take so much of their logging in and seeing it being unusable for them before they just give up on it.
PM: Probably important to say as well, we didn’t really talk about this, but Elon Musk has also specifically been going for news publications and news accounts. Labeling public broadcaster’s recently, and some of them have left the platform as a result. Because of putting price tags on API usage, and things like that, and because of the Twitter Blue stuff as well. Some kind of weather services and publicaAlerts and things like that, are leaving Twitter and not doing those things anymore. Seems like those actions could potentially take away some of that beneficial nature of this is where you go to get news and information. So that seems to be a potential issue, too, if you’re thinking about the actual use cases that a lot of people go to Twitter for.
MB: The API issue as a whole, we could do a whole episode on the API, honestly. You got large companies like Microsoft literally saying: We’re not paying for it. We’re not doing it. We’re moving functionality from Xbox to share gameplay videos with Twitter. It’s basically Twitter, saying: We don’t want you to make free content for us. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s incredible. It’s certainly possible for Musk to kill Twitter, but it’s been a long time since we actually lost a major social media platform. Probably the best example, and there’s a huge time gap, is MySpace. People have to understand, News Corp, Fox News’s parent organization, they didn’t just buy MySpace, and then it just kaput, died. It took three years of them running it before Facebook just swooped in and took over, and then MySpace was just done. It wasn’t a quick death.
Musk could certainly run this for a while unless his backers don’t want to do this anymore, and then he’s got to figure out what to do. But if everything stays the course, he could certainly keep it going. But Bluesky is definitely the first of the alternatives that I’ve seen actually take off. Now, Mastodon has been around before this whole Twitter drama when Musk bought Twitter, people tried moving there. It definitely, certainly, has its place. It’s a very niche community it’s a lot of programmers and tech evangelists and real-hardcore, people who believe in decentralization, like that’s their mantra. Those people on there.
That’s great. It’s a very earnest platform, though. It’s not a place for shit posters, which is a major part of what makes Twitter, Twitter. It just didn’t have that culture to it that made for a replacement. Good-side thing, you could use Twitter and Mastodon, but it’s taken to fill that hole that not using Twitter would leave. But Bluesky, now I was on Bluesky. I got an invite code like two weeks ago and when I went on there, it was not quite Mastodon, but it was a lot of people in the Web3 space, which, like you mentioned, I have a show called Scam Economy. You can guess what I think about Web3 people! [laughs].
PM: Also, views held by this show very much.
MB: It was like good developers, legit developers who probably create good stuff, but it was just like more tech talk. Suddenly, on the night of April 26th, Wednesday night, to Thursday, April 27th, all of a sudden, I noticed that some of my favorite people on Twitter — like shit posters, funny accounts, good journalists who have a sense of humor — are all of a sudden getting on Bluesky. And they’re just not posting. It’s very clear, in a very short amount of time that their posts just became so popular that they took over the feeds of people even outside of this little circle we had, to the point where Bluesky was us. These users in this little like shitposting, leftist, funny account, community that just came straight from Twitter.
It starts to grow. Dril ends up joining, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets an invite code and gets on there. And it’s just like: Holy shit like this is not happening on any of those other alternatives that you just previously mentioned. It’s actually fun to use, other alternatives I’ve tried and the user interface isn’t there. It just feels very poorly coded. In Mastodons case, all that stuff sort of lines up, but the culture is not there. But Bluesky is actually solid, very bare bones, but that actually, I think, made it work because it felt like very early Twitter. All you can do on Bluesky right now is post 300 character posts, and still images. You can not even post gifs. You can’t post videos. Actually, one thing I noticed is that I can’t find the Change Password option [laughs].
PM: Good luck, if you forget it.
MB: I don’t know if that exists. I think if you forget it, that’s the way you could change, you have to actually pretend you forgot your password though. You can’t just like go into your settings and change it though. There’s two feeds, just a chronological feed, and then a What’s Hot feed, which looks to be the most liked and reposted tweet from the whole platform. So if you get a hit post, which literally just takes a dozen reposts and likes to do, you get a hit post on Bluesky, then all of a sudden, there’s a feed for the entire platform that prioritizes your post. It feels like the old Twitter and it’s a lot of fun. There’s some of those people who were there early, and when I say early, those people who were there two weeks ago.
They’re very upset that their culture is not the predominant one there, too many people just fucking around and having a good time. But they need that, if you actually want to take on Twitter, or provide just a good alternative, you need that assortment of different communities on there. It’s very reminiscent of old Twitter. The CEO of Bluesky was begging users the other day to stop calling posts “skeets” because that’s what these shit-posters decided to just randomly assign. Twitter’s got tweets. Why don’t we just call the Bluesky posts, posts? Let’s call them skeets! If you want to look that word up in the Urban Dictionary, there’s a another meaning there.
PM: It’s interesting because as you’re saying, the people who were on this platform before were the tech people, the people who are interested in the decentralized web, and that sort of stuff. These are also the people who lead the project, people who were, kind of crypto-evangelists. The CEO was one of those people, a big crypto booster. These are some of the people who are leading it. And you see that some of the people who are there early are really frustrated that these people have joined the platform who don’t give a damn about their decentralized vision for what this could be.
They just want a platform where they can have fun and it seems like that’s almost, maybe, potentially, one of the biggest risk that the platform faces is continuing to charge in that direction, when you have a massive user base that doesn’t really care so much about that. And if it kind of changes the experience and makes it more difficult, makes it a more Mastodon like experience, maybe then you’re gonna lose all of that energy that has arrived on the platform that some of them don’t like. But it’s also how you potentially create something that’s going to be bigger than what they might imagine, I guess.
MB: Also, what they want to do with Bluesky is what hurt Mastodon because Mastodon was already doing it. But the vast majority of regular normal, non-techie, lay people, when they were looking for a Twitter alternative, and they heard about Mastodon before joining Mastodon to figure out which Mastodon server you want to join because Mastodon is decentralized. It’s the fediverse — there’s different Federations that exist, and you need to pick one to join. People don’t want to do that. People just want that centralized platform where they know everyone’s going to be at, they want to go to the cool party that everyone’s attending. They don’t want to have to figure out which little secret club they got to join and whether they’re getting all the content that they want from just that secret club. Bluesky wants to do something like that. But they’re not there yet.
So all these users sort of found Bluesky at the perfect time because if Bluesky already had that the popular, power users from Twitter who came there, they would have just avoided this like they avoided Mastodon. So it’ll be interesting to see if Bluesky alters how they go forward because I can’t imagine the people who are on there now would be into moving their stuff to a different server and figuring out what server to go to. They had to deal with their first Nazi on — or I should say their first open Nazi on Bluesky — because clearly someone invited this guy because he had an invite, which I don’t know if they know who.
But an open Nazi was on Bluesky the other day and there was a small debate about whether Bluesky should step in and remove this user because it’s a decentralized platform. What they ended up deciding on was: Yes, we could remove them from this Bluesky server, but once the federated universe exists on Bluesky, that Nazi will be welcome to join one of the other Bluesky servers that welcomes that Nazi. I mean, this is sort of the thing that Elon Musk has to deal with when he promotes a free speech platform. In my view, if you want to create a free speech platform, there’s nothing holding you down legally, that says you must give free speech on your platforms, let’s just get that out there. But if you actually just want a platform where anything and everything goes, I always say, you got to go full bore with it. If the whole idea is all speech is equal, and you don’t want to put your thumb on the scale, then you cannot have an algorithm that boosts any content. Just let it all rain down and let people find what they want.
What you’ll find, in my opinion, is people hate the platform because they’re seeing garbage. Of course, advertisers won’t advertise on the platform, so you do need moderation for that reason. Eventually, you’ll decide you do need to put your thumb on the scale, and actually build an algorithm that promotes very good content, because that’s what’s going to facilitate more use of your platform. Eventually, that idea of everyone being equal on your platform goes straight down the tubes, because that’s just how it works. Some people are just going to create better content, some people are just going to have a larger fan base that follows them there and helps that content get more reach. It’s just how these platforms work.
I’ve said too — listen, I think some of Musk’s ideas are good. I’ve agreed with some of the things he wants to do. The problem is, he hasn’t actually done any of them. He said: We should have a system that doesn’t permanently ban an account. You do something wrong, you get a one week suspension, do something wrong, again, maybe six months suspension. Do something wrong, again, two years suspension, and then on and on and on. But there’s always a timeframe where you get to come back. He has not upheld that. He’s, without any real explanation just decides to ban certain users that piss him off like Kanye West. He just randomly decides: Yeah, Kanye was posting a swastika. Musk didn’t like that, so he banned him. Kanye, as far as I know, doesn’t know a timeframe where he could come back. Also, I could honestly, seriously, find right now dozens of users posting swastikas right now, and they’re not getting banned.
He doesn’t want to bring back Alex Jones. Why? We can agree that we don’t want Alex Jones on the platform, but if you’re going to go by those rules, Alex Jones has been suspended for two, four years now. Give them a timeframe to come back. That’s your rules. Why Alex Jones can’t come back. But Roger Stone can come back. Chad Loder, extremism researcher, who is hated by a number of right-wing internet personalities, just randomly banned. If Chad Loder posted a tweet that broke your rules, take down the tweet, like you said you would. Why is his whole account banned? If he broke numerous rules. Okay, let him know what rules he broke, and give him that timeframe on when he could come back. He doesn’t have that either.
He also said that we would just take down individual policy breaking tweets, or we would limit reach, aka shadow ban, those specific tweets. But we would let users know that we’re doing that, so they could appeal that decision. We wouldn’t put that shadow ban on the entire account, just that tweet. Yet, just the other day, literally the day after they announced they’re going to officially roll out the label that lets users know that a specific tweet is shadow banned. Just a day later, a bunch of users reported this right-wing MMA fighter Jake Shields, who tweeted that people who support trans kids, like teachers and doctors, should be executed.
They removed that tweet, but then they took it a step further. Anyone who tweeted screenshots of that Jake Shields tweet, and screenshots pointing out all the Twitter Blue subscribers who were supporting that sentiment of executing those people for supporting trans kids. Twitter did a move that I’ve never seen the old Twitter ever do. They took down the screenshots from the specific tweets. Not take down the entire tweet, which would be a process where the user gets notified that the tweet is taken down, give them a policy in which that tweet was taken down under, and then also give them the opportunity to appeal it. No, Twitter went in and specifically removed content from within specific users tweets. I’ve never seen anything like that before Musk took over, and that is just honestly wild.
PM: I think it’s an important thing to point out. I think it just shows the further issues, the inconsistencies with what Musk has said, and really the problems with his management of the platform and how he’s just a complete hypocrite who doesn’t have a clue what he’s actually doing. Matt, it’s been great to talk to you. It’s been great to go through all of this from the issues with the Twitter Blue checks, and Elon Musk taken over, right to whether something is actually ever going to replace Twitter or whether we’re just stuck on this hellsite with Elon Musk making crazy decisions in perpetuity. I really appreciate it. Keep up the great work and thanks for taking the time to chat.
MB: Oh, thanks for having me. Always a pleasure!