Left or right, no one can seem to leave Twitter

“There has to be incredible, demonstrated value in getting people to move,” said Joan Donovan, who studies social media at Harvard University. “People have to think they’re going to get something special that they can’t get anywhere else. In the case of Parler, which benefited from a surge of new users after the 2020 election, Donovan said that special ingredient was the feeling they could say things they couldn’t on Twitter and Facebook.

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“You made a very serious effort on the part of incumbent Republicans and right-wing journalists to get people moving, promising special content, promising no censorship,” she added.

Right-wing accounts have never been purged from Twitter as the sometimes exaggerated commentary suggests, although some high-profile users have been temporarily suspended for violating standards intended to protect transgender people from harassment or to quit. the spread of misinformation about vaccines, for example.

What happened was that the Conservatives ran a campaign to label all attempts at content moderation – a practice similar to how online news outlets or private discussion forums choose comments from users to authorize – like censorship.

Some have already predicted that buying Musk won’t make Twitter much more unmanageable. Despite the company’s attempts to contain the ugliest and most inciting political rhetoric, there would never have been a way to erase it. Much of it remains, just like bullies and saboteurs, as Donovan discovered recently when she was teaching a class and looking for puppies as part of a demo on Twitter’s search feature. To her surprise, pornographic messages appeared, she said.

How both ends of the partisan spectrum view the deal with Musk likely oversimplifies the reality of what his leadership would do to the platform — not to mention the folly of predicting the whims of an eccentric billionaire whose political opinions are full of inconsistencies.

“A loss for people on the left, a victory for people on the right — I think the extremes overthink it,” said Adam Sohn, CEO of the Network Contagion Research Institute, which studies the spread of ideological content online. “And Elon Musk probably appreciates that,” he added.

One possibility for Twitter’s future that some progressive activists talked about as Musk moved closer to finalizing his deal is that left-wing users quit en masse. There is little evidence that this is happening in any meaningful way so far. As has been the case with many Twitter whistleblowers on the right, the protests are likely to be very blustery.

“We anticipate there will be an intensification of the rage to leave Twitter,” Sohn said. “Whether this turns into actual people leaving Twitter remains to be seen. »

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