How Elon Musk destroyed Twitter

About six months ago, Elon Musk bought your favorite neighborhood bar. He then fired experienced bouncers and bartenders, tried to put pressure on the landlord and at least one supplier, and demanded that regular customers pay for their services. He often had trouble serving clients, yet he was penalized for mentioning competition. Overall, he repressed the rave, really—a lot of the conversation in his bar was drowned out by Musk’s own endless stage presence, mostly him shouting daddy jokes at patrons through a megaphone.

Then pour one for Twitter. I’ve always been open to Musk buying the social network, but half a year on, it’s been a total disaster. Musk moved quickly and destroyed almost everything—the speed and comprehensiveness with which he destroyed websites was almost impressive.According to Musk’s own estimates, the company Worth less than half what he paid for me lost many big advertisersmost of its employees and most of their functions.

Elon Musk's Twitter reign has been an unmitigated disaster.

Elon Musk’s Twitter reign has been an unmitigated disaster.Credit: Bloomberg

Not only that, but Twitter under Musk seems to have lost what makes it impossible to quit: its centrality. The site was once the most important place on the web, not just a purveyor of breaking news and commentary, but an arbiter. During the height of culture circa 2015 to 2020, what people were talking about on Twitter seemed to set the agenda for discussions elsewhere. Even last year, it still mattered: After years of mismanagement and glacial innovation, on the eve of Musk’s tenure, Twitter was still the go-to place when something big happened anywhere.

Whatever Twitter is now, it’s not that place anymore. Cultural relevance is hard to quantify, but you know it when you feel it. And now, when things go wrong, Twitter rarely feels like the place everyone gathers to watch.

I noticed this when it was Donald Trump arraignedTrump is the most powerful twitter user in the world, his every typo puts twitter in easy slam dunk camp, he shows up in court and twitter is like soundShirin Ghaffary of The New York Times described it as a “snooze fest”.


There could be a number of reasons for the doze, including that people don’t care about Trump as much as they used to — or that even after Musk reinstated Trump’s suspended Twitter account, the former president insisted on using Truth Social, the platform he created, to deliver His ad-hoc letters.

But I’d wager that most of the problem stems from changes Musk made to Twitter’s news feed.

These days, it’s often hard to know what’s going on on Twitter. Musk’s self-serving changes to the site’s ranking algorithm have greatly reduced its usability: Twitter, once pleasantly diverse, serving tweets from ordinary people fairly evenly with those from celebrities and politicians, now seems to be consistently Highlight the same few users. (I love your tweets, Matt Yglesias, but I wish you weren’t always at the top of my feed!)

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