Twitter puts credibility up for sale

Just setting up my twttr.

Pop culture and tech world trivia buffs are probably aware the above phrase was the first recorded ‘tweet’ on the social media platform Twitter, done so by co-founder Jack Dorsey. That little piece of chat-speak, done in March 2006, would go on the launch a billion-dollar empire all based on the premise of allowing people to provide friends and strangers around the world with up-to-the-minute updates of what they are currently doing.

Flash forward to 2022 and the company is now under the control of business magnate Elon Musk, who paid a cool $44 billion to complete the transaction.

Musk wasted no time implementing changes, some of which stirring up the age-old debate of what exactly ‘free speech’ means. A debate that has some serious real world ramifications.

Twitter has a global reach and has evolved into a place millions of people turn to for information, right from the source-or in some cases, what they are led to believe is the source. Though it was always a far from perfect system, one thing Twitter did have going for it was its ‘verified’ feature, which would do its homework to ensure accounts claiming to be operated by celebrities and newsmakers were in fact legitimate. If an elected leader boasting a blue checkmark made a tweet, there was good reason to believe said leader issued it. It never hurt for readers to do a little digging on their own just to double-check what was being said, but for the most part official statements were pretty safe. In the always evolving world of journalism, a tweet from a verified account could often stand in as a quote to gauge a quick reaction from an otherwise difficult to track down person. Because of this, more than a few celebrity careers have gone down in flames due to ill-conceived tweets, perhaps intended as a joke but instead coming across as tone deaf. Too many celebrities have learned over the years that a simple text of fewer than 140 characters can carry the exact same weight as though they were spoken on record in front of a throng of reporters.

This is the crux of the issue regarding Musk’s take over-the blue check mark is now for sale. No longer does it take amassing a large audience through hard work and fame-simply forking over $8 a month is enough to get one. And since there are no real rules and regulations as to what a person choses as their user name, chaos is certain to ensue. Politicians, media outlets, celebrities-they’re all about to say a bunch of things they didn’t really say. Already there have been some cases of mistaken identity. Some harmless fun from a prankster, but the potential for real damage is there.

If nothing else the notion that social media influence can be bought and paid for is just one more reminder not to believe everything that gets said on the internet. This was always sound advice, but it’s a sentiment that always bears repeating.

-Adam Prudhomme

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