Have I got a deal for you! I will sell you the most influential and important communications platform ever devised, for pennies on the dollar. You will own the means by which the whole world communicates. Yes, it’s true that Twitter hasn’t made a lot of money considering its status in the world of news and information, but you’re smart. After all, you’ve got access to enough capital to make this deal happen, right? So, whaddya say?
How could something so ubiquitous, something that has insinuated itself into the very fabric of human existence, not get snapped up, whipped into shape, and unleashed to finally turn a profit? Where is the Twitter “unlock” already?!
The answer is that Twitter’s greatest asset is also its greatest liability, a/k/a @realdonaldtrump. And when you consider how close CEO Jack Dorsey came to getting tossed from his own awesome and hideous creation less than three months ago, remember this: Smart people thought Elliot Management would force Dorsey out for being distracted and spread too thin, but they kept him. Why? Because no one else wants to deal with this shitshow.
And today’s action, whereby Twitter added a warning label to one (just one!) of the President’s tweets, we have to ask, once again, is Jack Dorsey in charge of Twitter, or is Donald Trump?
Anyone celebrating Twitter’s use of its “fake news alert,” should not get too excited. The most offensive tweets, which clearly prompted today’s action, were left untouched. And it’s not like Twitter hasn’t dealt with this nonsense before. The Sandy Hook conspiracies lead to deactivation of prominent right-winger accounts. Trump’s conspiracy theory about Joe Scarborough being a murderer is no less unhinged.
And yet, it was a vote by mail tweet that got slapped with the warning. I think this shows that Twitter is more concerned about the election than the Scarborough nonsense. This move is pretty much the minimal amount of force that Twitter and Dorsey can display while taking a stand. A message has been sent.
But it may not be up to either party who is in charge. I firmly believe that if Twitter shut down the President’s account, that would be the end of Twitter. There needs to be some pantomime of neutrality or user numbers will decrease, and no one wants that. Twitter now needs Donald Trump.
But Trump needs Twitter just as much. All he does is tweet. No amount of Facebook or Instagram or Tumblr can replace the Trump experience on Twitter.
So what happens next? Twitter now becomes part of the opposition. But that’s difficult because the arrows will be fired at Twitter and from Twitter at the same time. That can’t be sustainable.
Hopefully the answer is innovation. Twitter is outdated, and the hate-filled manner of interaction shows that the model needs twweaking. The problem is that there is no war chest to withstand a transitional period. Plus, it’s not like Twitter can just sneak out the back door for a little while with no one noticing. Unfortunately, it has become ‘part of the plumbing,’ which means we can’t do without it, and someone has to maintain it, and that’s an exceedingly large job that is not as fun as counting new users.