The Culling 2022, Twitter edition

Tonight I deactivated my Twitter account. I have 30 days to change my mind, and then it goes away forever.


Casey Newton, in today’s edition of his Platformer newsletter, wrote the following:

…observing Elon Musk’s escalated attacks on a former employee and continued promotion of far-right ideas and personalities, over the weekend I found myself thinking: I just don’t want to be on Twitter anymore. 

It has all been bad, of course. From the moment Musk dragged that sink into Twitter headquarters, assured the assembled employees there that he wasn’t about to eliminate 75 percent of them, and soon did exactly that, Musk’s hostile takeover of the company has been ugly to behold.

Any acquisition is bound to cause turmoil in the lives of its employees, but Musk seemed to revel in it: laying off employees so indiscriminately that he was forced to beg many to return a day after terminating them; forcing a mostly remote workforce back into the office on a day’s notice; imposing impossible deadlines on those that remained; requiring workers to sign a digital loyalty oath promising to be “extremely hardcore”; putting workers through regular “code reviews” that have often served as a pretext for firing them; purging workers who were found to have been critical of him in Slack or on Twitter; installing beds in the office to encourage workers to sleep there.


More recently, he falsely stated that the company had “refused to take action on child exploitation for years” — an especially egregious statement given that he had just purged 80 percent of the company’s contract workforce, which included the majority of its content moderators. (We’ve reported that Twitter’s efforts here were indeed understaffed, but it’s not true that the company took no action.)

In recent days, Musk has increasingly advanced the narrative that Twitter was a den of corruption before he bought it. And over the weekend, he made his most disgusting smear to date. 

Here’s Dana Hull at Bloomberg:

Elon Musk posted tweets including an excerpt of Yoel Roth’s doctoral dissertation Saturday that suggested the former Twitter executive is an advocate for child sexualization — a baseless trope that leaves Roth susceptible to online abuse. […]

“Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services in his PhD thesis,” tweeted Musk, with an excerpt from the 300-page dissertation. “Gay Data,” the title of Roth’s 2016 dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, is about Grindr, the geosocial networking service popular with the LGBTQ+ community.

To be clear, the dissertation is about how to keep predators away from children. But in an interview with Kara Swisher, Roth had dared to criticize Musk after resigning. And so this was his punishment: a smear pushed out to 121 million people, which led immediately to Roth being overwhelmed with death threats.

As if all of that weren’t terrible enough, Musk followed up by tweeting “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” — a smooth-brained, Tucker Carlson-ass Mad Lib of a post that served to bolster the kind of anti-trans and anti-vaxx culture warriors that most people have absolutely no desire to hear from, ever. (Culture warriors who, I assume, made up a good number of the 60,000-plus accounts Musk recently returned to the platform after falsely saying he would first consult with a council of experts before doing so.) 

There’s more, but you get the point (Platformer is great if you enjoy reading about how social media is affecting our world. It can feel a bit like doomscrolling at times, but Newton writes good stuff).

It’s reached the point where Twitter–which I rarely used before, anyway–has gone from being worth watching in a “flaming train wreck” kind of way to where having an active account starts to make you feel at least a bit complicit in what Musk is doing. I’ll still see and hear about Twitter news, of course. It’s nearly inescapable if you read any sites, blogs or newsletters that cover social media, but I’ll be doing it as someone on the outside, looking in, not as someone participating directly in the hellscape Musk is making.

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