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Elon Musk | The straw that broke the camel

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High-profile Twitter users have been suspended without warning or explanation, then abruptly reinstated. A new policy to prevent users from sharing links and usernames from other social platforms was put in place, then apparently scaled back.

And Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, sent a series of messages to his 122 million followers asking if he should step down as the head of the social media service, while lamenting that no one else wanted to. this post. (More than 17 million Twitter accounts responded, with most voting to let someone else do the work.)

It’s been another chaotic 48 hours for Twitter, which has been in turmoil since Mr. Musk completed the $44 billion takeover of the company at the end of October. His tenure was marked by mass layoffs, executive resignations and unpaid bills within the company. Advertisers balked, rival services rushed in, and many Twitter users feared the service would simply stop working.

But over the weekend, a series of actions by Mr Musk on the platform, which seemed random and capricious, upset Twitter users so much that outrage grew – then turned to disgust . The backlash became so intense that even Mr. Musk’s staunchest supporters seemed to turn away from him.

Crumbling support

Among the critics are Silicon Valley technologists and entrepreneurs who previously backed Elon Musk, such as Paul Graham, founder of startup accelerator Y Combinator, and investor Balaji Srinivasan. Mr Musk’s latest actions on Twitter were “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, Mr Graham tweeted on Sunday.

The outrage, even among Mr Musk’s Silicon Valley cohort, sparked what appeared to be a crisis of confidence on the part of the 51-year-old billionaire, who was pictured earlier in the day attend the World Cup final in Qatar with Jared Kushner.


PHOTO CARL RECINE, REUTERS

Elon Musk (centre, drink in hand) in the boxes at the FIFA World Cup final

“Should I step down from running Twitter? Elon Musk tweeted Sunday night after Twitter users continued to question his actions.

By early evening in San Francisco, nearly 6 million users had responded, and the 24-hour poll was leaning toward “yes.”

Musk, who often has wings in big moments, said he would abide by Twitter users’ decision, whatever it is. No successor has been identified, he said.

Since the middle of last week, Twitter users have grown increasingly agitated over Mr Musk’s ownership.


PHOTO CHRIS DELMAS, AGENCY FRANCE-PRESSE

The poll conducted by Elon Musk on Twitter, where he asks Internet users whether he should keep his position at the head of the platform.

It all started on Wednesday when Twitter banned more than 25 accounts that tracked the whereabouts of private planes – including Mr Musk’s – using publicly available information. While Mr Musk had previously promised to allow the account, known as @ElonJet, to remain online, he later said he considered the accounts, which also track oligarchs’ planes, to government agencies and celebrities, posed a security risk.

Musk justified his action by outlining a new Twitter policy that prohibits accounts if they share another person’s “live location.”

On Thursday, Musk used the policy to ban the Twitter account of alternative social network Mastodon after it used its account to advertise @ElonJet’s new presence on its platform. He also suspended the accounts of journalists from the New York Timesfrom washington postCNN and other outlets after some shared links or screenshots of Mastodon’s tweet promoting @ElonJet (including the account of Ryan Mac, a journalist at Times and co-author of this article).

The suspensions were lifted on Friday after Mr Musk asked his followers if he should have the accounts reinstated and 59% of respondents said yes. But in the meantime, the criticisms had accumulated.

“If Twitter owner Elon Musk is serious about fostering a platform that enables free speech for all, it makes no sense to remove journalists from the platform,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chair of the Committee for protection of journalists, in a statement at this time.

Then, last Saturday, Twitter suspended the account of Taylor Lorenz, a journalist at washington post, after she posted a message asking Mr. Musk to comment on an upcoming article. Mr. Musk then said that Mr.me Lorenz had been suspended for “prior doxing,” that is, sharing non-public identifying information online. Mme Lorenz does not appear to have revealed any personal information in his visible tweets.

Removal of accounts from other social networks

On Sunday, Twitter took another step. The company abruptly announced a new policy stating that it would no longer allow accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Mastodon. Mr Musk said the change was being made to prevent “relentless advertising by competitors for free, which is absurd in the extreme”.

The measure has proven highly unpopular with users, who are used to open social networks where posts and videos can be easily shared across platforms.

The new policy also appears to run counter to Mr. Musk’s statements about his commitment to an open web and greater transparency in corporate decisions.

Mr Graham, a Y Combinator founder who had backed Mr Musk’s takeover, tweeted that new rules banning the promotion of other competing platforms had led him to ‘ditch’ Twitter and told his followers to go find him on Mastodon. Twitter then suspended Mr Graham’s account. (Elon Musk later said Paul Graham’s account would be reinstated.)

Other Silicon Valley technologists and venture capitalists said they were done with Twitter and started exploring other services. Ben McKenzie, actor and notorious cryptocurrency skeptic, said he was taking a break from Twitter, adding, “This site isn’t as fun as it used to be. Other users accused Mr. Musk of acting like a dictator.

Elon Musk has started backtracking. He adjusted the new policy so that only accounts whose primary purpose was to promote competitors would be suspended.

“Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes,” he tweeted. I apologize. This will not happen again. »

Moments later, Mr. Musk asked his followers if he should step down from his leadership role at Twitter. He promised to abide by their response, but then added, “No one wants this post that can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor. »

This article was originally published in the New York Times.



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