The public disintegration of a platform that millions of people used every day has been painful to watch. Now that Google’s search results seem almost completely colonized by AI-generated crap, it will be harder for me to listen in on and learn from a wide range of everyday people sharing their opinions and talking to each other.
Elon Musk’s platform may be hell, but it’s also where huge amounts of reputational and social wealth are invested. All of that is in peril.
The jokey mood around Twitter’s failure right now may be a way to temporarily push aside the breathtaking awareness of this complementary truth. Twitter has enabled phenomenal reporting, including by people who never would have been heard in the old publishing system. It’s where I went to read about the disappearance of two Malaysian planes, about Covid, about the protests over the police’s murder of George Floyd.
I can’t imagine following the breaking-news events I’ve been able to witness virtually—the first days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the invasion of the US Capitol—on another platform. It’s in these real once-in-history moments that Twitter comes alive. It doesn’t silo people into friend circles like Facebook or promote groupthink quite like Reddit. The barrier to entry for people who want to add to the story is lower than on TikTok or Instagram. You don’t need to angle for a photo or a video; you can tweet while hiding under a desk, or even—as Alexei Navalny does, hand-writing tweets he delivers to his lawyer—from prison. –Eve Fairbanks, Wired