For those who aren’t active on Twitter, you may be missing out on some extremely chaotic times. In the last few weeks, businessman Elon Musk now has ownershp of Twitter. He’s made many changes already, including changing the rules for verification. Instead of an internal decision at Twitter, Musk proposed charging $20 a month for verification checkmarks. However, after a tweet from author Stephen King mocked the idea, Musk replied by offering to lower the cost to $8, which it is now.
Since any person could pay $8 for verification, there were instances of individuals creating accounts and posing as different companies, attempting to make the account look somewhat believable and posting patently false information that would damage the company’s image. Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly lost money because of one of these accounts posing as them and promising free insulin, weapons company Lockheed Martin had to deny rumors they were no longer selling weapons to the U.S. or Israel and Musk’s own company, Tesla, was a victim of this too.
Although seeing these giant companies actually lose money through the stock market, purely because of the actions of individual people, there are some people getting caught in the crossfire of all this chaos. In those tweets where Musk tried to negotiate with King about the cost of verification, Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono replied and expressed his concern for the new decision to make Twitter users pay to be verified.
“For a lot of journalists in Africa, verification has helped us to not fall victim to State tactics to use our names to spread propaganda. I have been to jail three times inside six months for exposing corruption,” Chin'ono said. “Few African journalists will afford the U.S. $20.”
Despite this clear concern expressed by Chin’ono and other journalists as well, Musk has also recently posted about journalism. Musk said his plans for Twitter will make it better for independent journalists, or as he calls them, citizen journalists. However, we disagree, as do other journalists, including Emily Bell, a professor of journalism at Columbia University. In an article for the Columbia Journalism Review, she said Musk’s past shows how he will damage the use of Twitter for journalists, independent or not. In the article, she talks about how New York Times journalist John M. Broder took a test drive in a Tesla Model S for an article he wrote.
"Documenting his dreary trip between Newark, Delaware and New Haven, Connecticut, Broder logged his battery and charging problems with the electric wonder-car,” Bell wrote. “The response was a furious blog post from Tesla founder Musk claiming that the data Tesla harvested from the drive suggested a deliberate attempt to sabotage the car for a ‘salacious story.’”
Although Broder’s test drive was analyzed and proven to be completely valid, as well as his article, Musk still immediately took criticism of his company and work personally and tried to smear the press. Most public figures insulting the press already do enough to damage journalism, but this is especially the case for Musk, whose fans are infamously and intensely devoted to defending him.
There is no way to take Twitter from Musk immediately, but the way to address the problem is to be careful about what social media platforms you take your news from. Twitter became so popular for journalists because of it's accessibility to readers. If actual newspaper websites were the primary place of readership, they wouldn't have to rely on Twitter like they currently do.
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