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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

104: Issues With Twitter Since Musk Took Over

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Howdy! I'm chronically online. My husband would tell you it's a problem. I've been active on Twitter for longer than I've had this blog. In that time, it's undergone some changes, generally for the worse. Some of these changes are so obviously counter productive for maintaining a profitable app that it feels like Elon Musk is intentionally breaking the product. My husband has had me explain to him several times specifically how Musk is hurting the dumb bird app, and again to my father-in-law, so I guess folks not familiar with Twitter might be curious as to how bad things have gotten.

When Musk finally had to honor his agreement to buy Twitter, he promised to get rid of the bad bots. He's said a lot of things, often untrue, and that wasn't an exception. If you'd like to see how common bots are on the site, still, feel free to Tweet a list of key words that trigger their reply. The following list works like a summoning circle for spam-demons:

  • put this on a shirt

  • help with my essay

  • account locked

  • account hacked

  • interested in nfts

  • interested in crypto

  • interested in stocks

  • need money

  • dogecoin

  • bitcoin

  • ethereum

  • need a loan

  • need followers

  • need a job

  • need [insert drug name here]

  • need a sugar daddy

  • need a graphic designer

  • create a logo

  • need MetaMask support

  • need Yuroi support

  • need Phantom support

  • need Trust Wallet support

There's more but you get the idea. I'm seeing many obvious bots per day, all of which should be easily bannable if Twitter added a code that flagged users who spam the same responses many times per day to users not following them. I assume the bots are allowed to stay on Twitter, as on Instagram, to fluff user numbers. The more active users, the more promising the app for advertisers.

Speaking of, you've probably heard that Musk got rid of merit-based account verification. There are numerous reports that semi-famous users have been paying to get verified since Jack Dorsey's time on the app, and much larger sums that $8/month (Though, Musk raised the price for brands.). That said, two wrongs don't make a right. Nobody should ever have had to pay a bribe in order to verify their identity. There used to be set standards, evidence required, that a figure had a public persona worthy of verifying and that standard should have been the be-all, end-all for that decision. I mean, yes, way back when, originally, Twitter reached out to celebrities about verification, but once notable people caught on to the value of being verified, protecting themselves from being misrepresented online, the onus of requesting verification moved to the user. There weren't verification tiers like there are now.

Verified users are afforded more on-site visibility than the rest of us. Their comments are pushed to the top (which wasn't the case, before Musk, though back when they were actual leaders in their fields, their comments naturally rose to the top of Replies due to the earned interactions of their followers), regardless of how many interactions they've garnered. When looking at Replies to a popular Tweet, you'll find that you now have to scroll past a slew of low-effort or hateful comments, in order to get to those who've risen due to being interacted with. I block or mute blue-check-mark, "Verified," users mostly for this reason. I want to read the interesting comments, not slurs and phallic emoticons.

Though, as Musk has discouraged blocking, there is a popular theory that blocking users puts extra pressure on the servers, costing Twitter more money. And as Musk's personal net value is based off Twitter stock, and he's currently loudly lobbying against trans health care in the USA, all the more reason to overload those servers wherever possible.

Letting Joe-Shmoe-The-White-Supremacist verify his account, devalues Verification, and creates problems. Name-brand advertisers don't want their ad showing up beneath a Tweet featuring Hitler quotes. Users don't want to have to scroll for several minutes to get to the actual interesting Replies.

Currently (I'm writing this on 05/31/2023), there is an account impersonating AOC (USA Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and it's been flirtatious towards Elon Musk, who has been interacting with it, bringing it to the attention of more users on the app. When Musk first rolled out paid verification accounts, users intentionally impersonated unethical companies, drawing attention to their evil business' practices. These antics successfully tanked the stock of a pharmaceutical company. While I fully support folks hurting the corporate bottom line for the greater good, you can imagine how this sort of behavior would drive advertisers from the site. Musk interacting with impersonators is bound to exacerbate that anxiety.

There has always been an issue with not enough customer support on Twitter (and the Meta apps). This isn't new. If you're locked out of your account, hacked, or mistakenly suspended, good luck getting a human to help you. But, it's gotten a lot worse under Musk. Why? He decimated his employee count. There are simply not enough people to help, not that there ever were. If you have a paid account, there is supposed to be minimal customer service for you, but blue-check users have commented that's not their experience either.

That's why Tweeting that you're having issues with your account has you swarmed with bot-scam replies. Scammers know these apps lack the support to solve your problem and they hope you'll be desperate enough to pay up. Scammers can't help though. They'll take the money and run.

There is a report feature on Twitter, with some limited options for why you're reporting the Tweet or account, including an option to select example Tweets. Hate speech no longer results in an account suspension or ban under Musk. He did promise free speech would reign, right? Except folks are still getting suspended. If not for hate speech, then why, right? Well, Elon Musk follows a bunch of far-right talking heads, largely podcasters, and one very hateful Tiktoker. When they say jump, he asks how high. When they say a leftist podcaster is somehow a threat to the public, Musk drops the ban hammer—not on the white supremacists or the transphobes calling for the eradication of a people. No. He removes those proclaiming that ultra religious hate mongers should be held accountable for their actions. Also, under Musk, Twitter has acquiesced to many demands of government censorship, including that of theocracies, though who can be surprised? The Saudi's backed Musk's purchase.

Exacerbating the lack of customer support, is that Musk removed two-factor authentication for non-verified users. What what basically Twitter's only attempt to secure users' accounts, gone, stuck behind a pay wall. That alone sent users running for Mastadon.

On to other issues with the app. Blocking users doesn't work anymore. When you block or mute a user, their Tweets and Replies aren't supposed to be visible from your feed anymore. When searching for their username, they shouldn't appear for you except by name in Tweets replying to them. The difference is that you can follow muted users, but blocked users should be completely removed from the site as far as you can see. Except now, if a user you follow, or who the algorithm has assumed is relevant to your interests, Quote ReTweets someone you've blocked, you'll see the original blocked Tweet on your timeline. If they reply to a Tweet you're reading, their reply takes up a grey space on the screen. If you're looking at a popular Tweet and have blocked a bunch of blue-checkmark users, you're going to be scrolling past a bunch of grey boxes before you get to see the comments worth interacting with. Meanwhile, this all feels intentionally annoying, perhaps as a way of discouraging blocking, because muted users' Tweets don't show up in Quote ReTweets, nor take up space as empty boxes in replies to a Tweet you're reading, blue-checkmark or not. Muting has become more effective than blocking, which wasn't the case under Dorsey.

If you want to look at the Tweet from the blocked user, and click the Quote Retweets of that Tweet, you will be unable to read them. So while casually scrolling, you can be assaulted by the blocked users' Tweets, but when directly choosing to read responses to them, you can't. This is a glitch and didn't used to be the case.

I've found that celebrities and politicians I've intentionally blocked, have mysteriously been unblocked under Musk. The most obvious account was that of Lauren Boebert. I do not benefit from seeing her Tweets. Whatever hateful nonsense she spews will only serve to make me angry. I re-blocked her.

Musk has announced that soon users will be able to call one-another over Twitter. It is unclear if users will be able to decline to enable that communication tool with their accounts, but speaking as someone who maybe knows three of her followers in real life, I'm not answering Twitter calls. That's insane. I'm already in the minority having my DMs (direct messages) open, not that I'm responsive to folks I don't already regularly interact with.

Another shift is that verified accounts can now upload two hour long videos, increasing the file size from 2GB to 8GB. I actually saw somebody post the entire White Chicks movie, which probably opened the site up to claims of copyright infringement. Folks better familiar with running servers have expressed that with a little effort, verified users can easily cost twitter more than they're paying, by uploading hundreds of videos.

More recently, Musk decided to delete accounts that have gone unused for more than 30 days. Either he doesn't understand how users interact with famous Tweets or he is killing the dumb bird app on purpose. Most users don't want to post a screen shot of memorable Tweets in reply to relevant Tweets. They want to ReTweet the original, giving credit where due, keeping the original conversation going. See, on Reddit, when a user deletes their account, their comments remain, just anonymously. If a Twitter account is deleted, so is their legacy, effectively. Yes, there are users devastated that the online footprint of their deceased loved ones is on the verge of removal, or already gone. But this actually effects everyone, from the chronically online, what with all their twitter-specific inside-jokes, and the many users who are active a few times a year. Of the followers I know in real life, none of them are regular users. They, and I'd wager most Twitter users, hop on when there is a reason, an event worth live Tweeting, when they want to connect with those sharing similar interests because those interests are temporarily relevant. Say, folks want to talk about the Oscars or a Nintendo Direct or they're at a Super Bowl party, and couldn't care less about the football, but are pumped to see jokes about the halftime show in real time.

Anyway, this was the plan. This is the mistake Musk intentionally made. However, it gets worse. A side effect of decimating his staff, is that more glitches are developing and they're taking longer to fix. What actually happened, somehow, was that anyone with inactive side accounts is now having their main account suspected for the crime of "Attempting to evade a ban." Lots of users have multiple accounts, each Tweeting about a set topic. Those topics can vary drastically, and those accounts generally won't see equal use. While I don't have multiple Twitter accounts, I have four Instragrams. One is for my art, one is for my general use, one is about my dogs, and one is for book reviews. Obviously, these don't receive equal attention. Lately, I haven't been reading much, so that account has been inactive for over 30 days. I would be furious if all four of my accounts were suspended for that innocuous offense. I've used my art Instagram since 2014, to catalogue my art, and there are many who've used Twitter similarly. It's also been days since the ban hammer started dropping (I'm writing this on 05/31/2023) and Twitter hasn't acknowledged the issue yet. There is no rule against having alt accounts on Twitter. In fact, Meta Instragam lets users block accounts and any other accounts those users may create. Twitter doesn't offer that. I suspect that anyone banned on Twitter can start over with a new account, even using the same email and phone number. However, this isn't to say starting over is easy or fun. I'd never touch the app again if it banned me for no good reason. I'm still salty about the time I was suspended for a week after explaining to customer service (Yeah, after a few days I got an actual human. This is pre-Musk though.) that my reply, in context, wasn't a threat (Somebody asked how folks would fair if World War 3 started with Russia and the USA and I replied, "Die Immediately. I live near two nuclear reactors and a high-priority military school.").

Twitter hasn't announced that they're removing the translate feature, but the option is gone on the desktop, and it's widely assumed it'll be removed from the mobile app soon. This is supposed to be a worldwide communication app. Join the conversation right? And I really appreciate being able to read people's current experiences, without having to wait for their news to make it to my language. This is a great loss.

Sometimes I'll click my account to look at my Tweets and they'll be gone, and there will be a phrase on the screen indicating I have never Tweeted. Or I'll go to the Trending tab and find it empty. Or all of my DMs will be gone for most of a day. There was a week when Twitter started cropping posted images, so they had to be clicked for users to view them properly. The app went down for long enough a month or so ago that I many of us thought it was on the verge of permanent collapse.

On the one hand, it's just a social media app. On the other, it's a tool for organizing, just like TikTok, which politicians are trying to ban. The excuse with TikTok is that it's full of spyware and giving that information to the Chinese government, but that's hypocritical. All of the free apps have spyware and are selling our information to the highest bidder. We have always been the product. The USA government doesn't like that they cant censor TikTok as easily as they can Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As for how much they censer Twitter under Musk, I don't know, but he gets a lot of funding from the Pentagon, and Dorsey took plenty of federal money to either stifle free speech or give them our information. The bill to ban TikTok is really an attempt to expand the already pervasive surveillance state over US Americans by making VPN use a felony.

It feels like Musk is trying to make Twitter lean Alt-Right, which organically, wouldn't happen. Outside of Facebook, and I'm assuming Truth Social, the average social media app user is under 45, and probably not exceedingly conservative. Let alone hateful. I remember when Reddit started cracking down on free-speech (aiming to thwart hate speech, so in theory, I get where they were coming from. Effectively, banning r/FatPeopleHate and similar subreddits drove the crazies to badger the rest of us in other normal parts of the site.) and someone responded by making a second version of the site catered to "free-speech." If you've never heard of Voat, it was basically Reddit2.0, but an absolute cesspool of hatred. Some normal users gave it a chance. I tried running a tattoo themed subreddit (Subvoat? I don't remember.) there but I couldn't abide the constant vitriol of the other users. Eventually it went under. Maybe they didn't have enough users. I don't know. But I'd rather Twitter didn't go under so I'd like Musk to stop breaking it.

That said, as long as he's going to be loudly hateful, I support anyone going out of their way to cost Musk money. Anonymous claimed a month ago that they'd be taking aim at the Republican party over the current slew of anti-trans legislating. If they crash the app, we'll all migrate somewhere else. Or, who knows? Maybe we'll all go outside. I've already joined the Blue Sky waiting list. I technically have an account on Counter Social, and while the app is more user-friendly then Mastodon, it isn't as simple to navigate or interact with as on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!

Update: There is now a new CEO but the damage is done. Meta announced they're making their own Twitter copycat app. Maybe it'll suck less than the current one.

Update 07/03/2023: This past weekend Twitter was unusually broken. First, on Saturday, the feed barely loaded. Users could tweet but couldn't read replies. Musk announced temporary limitations on how many tweets users could read, based off whether they were verified and the age of their accounts. Users reported that their experience didn't line up with those arbitrary numbers, meaning some users found the majority of tweets un-readable despite having just logged on, and not having used up Musk's reported read allotment. Verified and unverified users loudly ranted about the idiocy of the change. Musk blamed the temporary shift on supposed data scalpers raiding the app. News sites and knowledgeable users explained that Twitter hadn't paid its Google bill for server access. It was explained that every time users reloaded the site, due to it being dysfunctional, that the site reached out to inaccessible servers. This issue was exacerbated when Twitter made tweets unreadable for users who aren't logged in. Sunday, many of us were unable to tweet, like tweets, reply to tweets, quote tweet, follow users, and DM. We could block users, mute users, and retweet. Feeds were not limited. Silenced users turned to other social media sites, including reddit, to double check the issue wasn't unique to them. As of today, Monday 07/03/23, the app seems fully functional. Or as much as it ever is any more. I haven't seen so many users delete their accounts and flock to alternative apps since Musk first purchased Twitter. I do find it curious how he remained the public face of such scandals when the company officially has a new CEO.

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