On October 27, 2022, Elon Musk, after officially taking ownership of Twitter Inc. he posted: “The bird has been released.” The tweet was followed by layoffs of top executives, a series of controversial layoffs (roughly half of the 7,500 employees), and the renaming of the platform to “X.”

Although Twitter was never the largest social networking platform, at least in terms of active users, its influence score was very good: Political leaders, companies, news organizations, journalists and celebrities routinely used the platform to communicate and engage. .

Extremists, hate speech and lawsuits

Despite promising not to turn Twitter into a “free-access hellhole,” Elon Musk made his position very clear: He fired a large number of employees in the moderation department, disbanded the trust and safety board, and reinstated blocked far-right extremist accounts. and conspiracy theorists, including Nick Fuentes and Andrew Anglin. The platform’s press office was locked in November 2022: To those who try to get in touch with them, they respond with a specific emoji: Excrement.

In the weeks following Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform, a study by researchers at Tufts University in the US found that “the quality of conversation has declined, with more extremists testing the limits of what can be allowed on Twitter.” Now, a year later, critics say X is inundated with hate speech and misinformation.

All this is important because “what we see on social media translates into real-world data,” says Raphaela Andre, a researcher at the Leibniz Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim (ZEW). Andre examines the impact of legislation to combat hate speech on Twitter as part of her study.

After Twitter what?

In September, Elon Musk fell out with the German government. Through his account, he called on people to vote for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, arguing that refugees have flooded Europe and that the German government is to blame for this, as it finances the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean. “Does the German public know this?” Musk wrote on Twitter. The German Foreign Ministry’s official account replied: “Yes, it’s called saving lives.”

Still, Andre doesn’t think Twitter will shut down: “I think there will be different alternatives, like Mastodon and Blue Sky. I don’t think they’ll become as big platforms as Twitter used to be, I think we won’t have a single platform anymore.”