Elon Musk bought Twitter, knocked out bosses, and scared away loyal writers. Is X coming now – or rather the rise of Mastodon?
To some faithful writers, it may seem like the Twitter calypse. So Elon Musk has really struck and taken over Twitter. The man who was once only conditionally allowed to tweet after a lawsuit by the SEC for capital fraud. Musk had shared information that shouldn’t be made public, including his idea to take Tesla private. A surge in shares followed. Now there is a downward slide in the number of Twitter users who do not agree with his ideas of a social network and freedom of expression.
In Elon Musk’s imagination, Twitter is just the beginning: an already existing network on which he can build his everything app, X. X, as everything is called at Musk, even his children, should be a mixture of the dystopias of Dave Egger’s “The Circle” and Marc-Uwe Kling’s “Qualityland”. From complete monitoring to – hallelujah – shopping experience including payment function. Musk has been raving about a super app for years. He cites Chinese WeChat as a role model. An original chat service that has been enhanced with many features – mass surveillance and censorship is included for free.
A successful network only with a network
Now, a successful everything app needs people to use it. Social networks only work through the network effect, i.e. when you meet friends, family, colleagues, and other interesting people on a platform instead of just hanging out there alone. This should be the Twitter base for X.
Not only Jan Böhmermann is currently calling for people to leave Twitter and switch to Mastodon. Migrations like this have happened in the history of social media. From StudiVZ to Facebook, for example. The ambiguity about the data protection guidelines on WhatsApp also caused a rush to signal. But Mastodon, the nerdy little brother of Twitter, which already has a great target group?
Escape from freedom of expression
The escape doesn’t imply that Musk may soon be shipping pink dolphin vibrators, as Qualityland is unwelcomely doing. That future still seems too far away. Rather, it is the feared concessions to freedom of expression, as Musk imagines. In this free social world, it is assumed that ex-presidents can again indirectly call for direct violence. “The reason I bought Twitter is that it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital plaza where a wide range of views can be discussed in a healthy manner without resorting to violence,” tweeted the new boss.
Musk has just fired a whole squad of Twitter bosses, including Vijaya Gadde, who is responsible for fighting hate speech. Rumors about the dismissal of numerous employees have been around for days. However, this does not mean, as some politicians seem to fear, that all laws are automatically annulled – insults are insults, threats are threats and the law is also the law. Nevertheless, there may be a lack of moderators and people who take care of spam and more than unsightly content.
And unfortunately, we also have a problem with Mastodon. Again, there is little control. Since the platform runs decentrally over thousands of servers, the moderation processes are also distributed and quickly overwhelmed when there is a rush. That actually makes a change obsolete for precisely those reasons. What remains inaccurate above all is the resentment of the richest people in the world, which could drive them to change. The coming days will show whether that is enough. It is possible. But a new X is also possible – Musk has taught us better several times despite his unpredictability.