The Musk effect

April 16, 2023

Twitter has become increasingly unfair to its consumers since it was purchased by Elon Musk

The Musk effect


witter is one of the most popular and influential social media platforms in the world, with over 300 million active users and billions of Tweets posted every day. However, since it was acquired by Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men, in October 2022, Twitter has become increasingly unfair to its consumers, especially in terms of its verification system, policy changes and moderation practices.

These changes have undermined Twitter’s original vision of being a free and open platform for everyone and have instead turned it into a tool for Musk’s personal agenda and interests.

One of the most noticeable changes that Musk introduced was the new verification system that requires users to pay $7.99 a month to receive a blue checkmark on their profiles. This checkmark used to be assigned manually by Twitter to high-profile figures and businesses that met certain criteria of being active, notable and authentic. Now, anyone who can afford to subscribe to Twitter Blue can get the checkmark, regardless of their identity or credibility.

Restricting verification to those who can pay for a subscription creates a hierarchical system that goes against the principles of a fair and equal social media platform. The subscription also includes access to premium features such as undo tweet, bookmark folders and custom app icons.

The issue with this system is that users who cannot afford or do not want to pay for a subscription are denied the opportunity to verify their identity and credibility on the platform. This can negatively impact their online reputation and influence, particularly for those who rely on Twitter for professional or networking purposes. This creates a hierarchical system where those who can pay for the subscription have an advantage over those who cannot, which goes against the fundamental principles of a fair and equal social media platform.

Ironically, it also goes against a previous statement by Musk about verification. In a tweet from 2022, Musk had stated that he did not want to be ‘verified’ unless the verification process was opened up to everyone on equal terms.

Other policies such as Elon Musk’s use of polls to make policy changes on Twitter are also unfair, undemocratic and potentially harmful to the platform’s users. Instead of consulting with the entire Twitter community or experts on policy issues, Musk has relied on polls that he posts on his own account, which he plans to only allow Twitter Blue subscribers to vote on in the future.

This approach is problematic for several reasons. First, it means that Musk is making decisions that affect millions of Twitter users based on the opinions of a small minority who can afford to pay for Twitter Blue. Second, it assumes that Twitter Blue subscribers are representative of the wider Twitter community, which may not be the case. Twitter Blue subscribers are likely to have different priorities and perspectives from non-paying users. Relying on polls to make important policy decisions is not a reliable or effective way to gauge public opinion. Polls are subject to manipulation, and the phrasing of the questions can influence the results.

Most recently, Musk allegedly blacklisted Substack founder Chris Best arbitrarily from posting or getting replies on Twitter.

A third unfair aspect of Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership is the moderation practices that are inconsistent and biased towards certain personalities. Musk’s decision to reverse the ban on former US president, Donald Trump, who was excluded from Twitter following the Capitol riot in January 2021 for inciting violence and spreading false claims about the election, has been one of the most controversial decisions that he has made. Elon Musk argued that banning Trump was “foolish” and that he supports free speech for everyone, even if he disagrees with them. However, this stance contradicts his own actions of blocking or muting users who criticise him or his companies on Twitter, such as journalists, activists or whistle-blowers. Most recently, Musk apparently arbitrarily blacklisted Substack founder Chris Best from posting or getting replies on his platform.

Musk’s apparent inconsistency and bias in his moderation practices have drawn criticism from many quarters, including Twitter users, civil rights organisations and government officials. They argue that Twitter should be a platform for open and free debate, where all voices can be heard, not a tool for powerful individuals to silence dissenting opinions. Musk’s double standards in enforcing Twitter’s policies undermine its credibility.

Twitter has become increasingly unfair to its consumers since it was purchased by Elon Musk. Many users may feel intimidated or afraid to express their views on Twitter, knowing that they could be targeted by powerful figures like Musk. This is particularly concerning in light of the growing trends of online harassment and abuse that disproportionately affect marginalised groups and individuals.

Elon Musk’s moderation practices on Twitter raise serious questions about his commitment to free speech and his respect for the platform’s users. While he has defended his decision to allow Trump back on the platform, his actions suggest that he is willing to silence those who criticise him or his companies. This undermines the principles of open debate and healthy online discourse.

These aspects of Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership have eroded the trust and satisfaction of many users who feel marginalised, ignored or silenced by the platform.

It is important for users to demand more transparency and accountability from Twitter and its owner, and to explore alternative platforms that respect their rights and interests.

The writer is a freelance journalist and a master’s student at IBA Karachi

The Musk effect