The twin traps of election disinformation and Elon Musk’s own impulsiveness both bit Twitter’s rear end over the last 24 hours, and unsurprisingly, advertisers are not exactly clamoring to buy ads on the platform.
You’ll perhaps recall how at Elon Musk’s new largely laid-off Twitter, the new $8 blue check system that was supposed to save the company financially got delayed until after Tuesday’s midterm elections. But Twitter did still roll out a major change on Tuesday night while the elections were still in progress. An out-of-the-blue, new gray “Official” badge was added to thousands of accounts, which according to CNN, was “designed to label government accounts, major brands and media outlets,” and would “differentiate ‘select’ identity-verified accounts from the blue check marks that Twitter has said it will soon offer to paying users for $8 per month.”
I just killed it— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022
Aaaand the new “Official” badge was killed off just about eight hours after its launch. As seen in the above tweet from a confused pro frisbee player with about six million followers, Musk declared “I just killed it,” adding no further explanation.
There are no sacred cows in product at Twitter anymore. Elon is willing to try lots of things -- many will fail, some will succeed. The goal is to find the right mix of successful changes to ensure the long-term health and growth of the business. https://t.co/cMf27EmmpJ— Esther Crawford ✨ (@esthercrawford) November 9, 2022
Twitter product manager Esther Crawford, now tasked with cleaning up Musk’s many messes and therefore the person with the current most thankless job in America, tweeted “Elon is willing to try lots of things -- many will fail, some will succeed. The goal is to find the right mix of successful changes to ensure the long-term health and growth of the business.”
Conversation around the tabulation system errors spread rapidly on Twitter. We have observed 40,000+ relevant tweets in the span of two hours. Attention spiked after a tweet from Charlie Kirk, which fueled others who allege that these machine failures are deliberate. pic.twitter.com/b3i7cbCCB6— Election Integrity Partnership (@EI_Partnership) November 8, 2022
Yet it may not bode well for this “long-term health and growth” that election misinformation ran wild on Twitter on Tuesday, according to the New York Times. The primary fake news point was a voting machine glitch in Arizona's Maricopa County, where machines stopped countung ballots and the ballots had to be tabulated by hand. “More than 40,000 tweets about malfunctioning voting machines in the state’s Maricopa County were posted in the span of two hours in the morning,” the Times reports. “Nearly 19,000 tweets specifically mentioned Maricopa alongside terms like ‘fraud,’ ‘cheat’ or ‘cheating,’ according to the research group Zignal, which were references to the debunked belief that the glitches were the first signs of widespread voter fraud.”
“There are definitely things we’re seeing today that would not have been there if this whole Elon Musk takeover had not happened,” Tufts University dean of global business Bhaskar Chakravorti told the Times. “Just in the past 24 hours, there is more talk of election fraud rising up to the top.”
Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022
We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.
As Musk’s chaos factory continues to crank out more mayhem, he tweeted today that “Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months.” Is that what potential advertisers want to hear? The Associated Press reports Musk held an online meeting with advertisers (you can listen to it here), and among other things, Musk tried to explain why he slapped them with (and then took away) the gray “Official” badge.
"Apart from being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at the Twitter feed, it was another way of creating a two-class system," Musk said on the call. "It wasn't addressing the core problem."
Sure, but all of this could have been determined prior to rolling the feature out? It seems very odd and counterintuitive that Twitter is testing features by making them live on the whole site, rather than testing them in smaller, controlled environments. Maybe that’s just what Musk is demanding of his staff. But when it comes to testing, its clear that many users are also testing Twitter’s boundaries for fake news and chicanery under Musk’s watch.
Image: Alexander Shatov via Unsplash