With the launch of Threads, a microblogging rival from Meta, Twitter risks turning into an ideological bubble for ultra-conservative and right-wing voices.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed J.K. Rowling as a victim of "cancel culture" for her controversial stance on trans rights, the Harry Potter author quickly distanced herself from the dictator's remarks, highlighting his brutal treatment of political opponents.
When Anas Haqqani, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or Taliban, praised Twitter as a place for the "freedom of speech," the platform's owner, billionaire Elon Musk, used his status to amplify another radical voice.
In sharing Carlson Tucker's interview with Andrew Tate, a notoriously misogynist influencer facing allegations of human trafficking and rape in Romania, Musk has given advertisers concerned about Twitter's increasingly toxic brand another reason to stay away.
While some mainstream media outlets branded the interview as "nauseating" and gave Tate "free rein to invent his own reality," for Musk, it was "interesting."
To the Taliban leader, this kind of "freedom of speech" is one of Twitter's two "privileges" over other social media platforms. "The second privilege is the public nature & credibility of Twitter. Twitter doesn't have an intolerant policy like Meta," Haqqani tweeted.
This coming from a man whose government oppresses women and brutally silences dissidents.
On Twitter, however, "You are free to be who you are," Musk tweeted after posting the Tate interview, which later disappeared from his feed. Unless you're transgender, which makes Twitter the most "dangerous" social platform for you, according to GLAAD, an advocacy group.
LGBTQ users face hate speech and harassment on all major social media platforms, the organization said, but Twitter is the worst.
Earlier this year, Twitter removed a policy against misgendering transgender individuals. Musk also said the platform would consider the term "cisgender" – someone whose gender identity corresponds with the sex registered for them at birth – a slur.
Bye bye Twitter
Twitter's new policies have alienated some of its liberal and moderate voices, who are now turning to Threads as their first platform of choice. Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Jeff Bezos now post on Threads instead of Twitter, where neither seems to have been active as of late – months in the case of Winfrey and DeGeneres.
DeGeneres lauded the new platform as a "gay Twitter," while the Amazon boss reposted his fiancee's thread with a picture of himself and his cat staring at a phone, a caption reading, "Even Jill likes threads."
Many new joiners – more than 100 million in just five days – seemed to be just as elated with the "friendly" alternative to Twitter, with much of that exultation stemming from a sense of Schadenfreude at Elon Musk's perceived misfortune.
A meme depicting Threads as a party cruise ship and its rival as the sinking Titanic was making rounds, and even Twitter's own employees are joining the new platform, according to a report by the Daily Beast.
One current staffer reportedly said Threads was "just better," while others apparently signed up to check out the competition. A random sampling of Twitter workers suggested nearly a quarter of the company's 1,500 employees were on Threads, the Daily Beast said.
Happy user – engaged user?
Musk responded to the meteoric rise of Threads with threats to sue Meta over "unlawful" misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets, a challenge to a penis-measuring competition with its boss, Mark Zuckerberg, and, naturally, increased pressure on his own employees.
Platformer's Zoë Schiffer reported on Threads and Twitter that Musk had sent Twitter employees an email saying the company needed to ship better features faster than ever. "He doesn't mention Threads, but of course the success of the new social network looms large," Schiffer said.
Interestingly, her post on Twitter, where she has over 112,000 followers, was liked 300 times and received 38 replies. That same message on Threads, where Schiffer has more than ten times fewer followers, got 3000 likes and over 500 replies.
Based on these three metrics – Threads does not share data on views and reposts – user engagement seems to be higher on the new platform than on Twitter for many popular brands, too.
In fact, it is "significantly" higher on Threads, according to research from Website Planet that analyzed the posts of 30 companies that shared the same or similarly-timed content on both platforms. Despite most having much broader user bases on Twitter, the number of likes they generated on Threads, on average, was eight times higher.
Musk "angry and discombobulated"
No wonder Musk's fixation on Threads has grown to borderline-obsessive over the past week, betraying his real concern the app might indeed be a "Twitter killer" that so many of his detractors have hoped for since his takeover of Twitter last year.
In Germany, Twitter faces a legal challenge after failing to take down reported anti-Semitic and racist tweets, some of which denied the Holocaust and called for violence against black people.
It didn't have to go this way, according to former Musk loyalist Esther Crawford, a senior executive at Twitter who was fired from the company despite famously sleeping on the office floor to meet his deadlines.
"This is what happens when a powerful person lives in an echo chamber of their own creation," Crawford, now an avid Threads user, said in a post on the platform. Moves like suing Meta were a "sign of how angry and discombobulated he is," she said.
In another recent post, Crawford also called for someone to "check in on the CEO of the other app to see how she's coping," in a reference to Linda Yaccarino, whom Musk appointed as Twitter's new head to try and lure advertisers back.
"It's stressful dealing with a public meltdown you can't control, or stop," Crawford said. She would know. With a boss who actively seeks to marginalize himself, the job got a lot tougher for Yaccarino.
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