Why I Quit Elon Musk’s Twitter

On November 21st, 2017, Elon Musk took over Twitter. He had already taken over Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Neuralink, OpenAI, and Boring Company. Now he wanted to take over my social media life too.

The day before, Musk announced his plan to build a tunnel boring machine capable of digging tunnels faster than current technology allows. This announcement came just days after he launched a rocket into space, landed it safely, and then announced plans to send humans to Mars within 10 years.

Musk’s tweets were often cryptic, sometimes even nonsensical. But there was no mistaking the fact that he was trying to dominate our attention spans. And he succeeded. His followers grew exponentially.

But the problem wasn’t that Musk was trying to make himself look important. It was that he was making me feel small.

My name is Laura Martinez. I am a writer living in New York City. I write mostly about tech, science, politics, and culture. My work has appeared in publications ranging from The Atlantic to Vice. In 2016, I wrote a book called The Tech Industry Mythos.

When I joined Twitter in 2007, I thought I could use it to connect with friends and family. I didn’t realize how much power Twitter held over me. I began following celebrities, politicians, and journalists. I read their posts, retweeted them, and commented on them.

Then, in 2011, I discovered Reddit. I found a group of people who shared my interests—science, technology, and politics. They were funny, smart, and welcoming. I quickly learned that most of them lived outside of the mainstream media bubble.

Why I Quit Elon Musk’s Twitter

Former worker warns cuts will have consequences

Melissa Ingle had been working for Twitter since it launched in 2006. In 2012, she joined the company’s civic integrity team, tasked with ensuring that the social media site wasn’t used to spread misinformation during the presidential campaign.

But when the layoffs came down in October 2018, Ingle found herself out of work. Her contract had expired months earlier, and she’d never received word about whether she’d been renewed.

She says she tried reaching out to human resources multiple times over several weeks without success. Then, on November 7, she got a call from a recruiter.

Ingle was offered a job at another tech firm, but she turned it down because she wanted to keep working at Twitter.

“I felt like I needed to do something,” she told Business Insider. “I couldn’t sit around.”

So she went public with her story, hoping to raise awareness among other contractors who might find themselves in similar situations.

The following day, Ingle tweeted a link to her Medium post and asked people to help her figure out what to do next.

Rapid changes disrupt Twitter’s business

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told employees Friday that he wants to make sure the company doesn’t become too big, too fast — and that includes changing how it operates. In his letter to employees, Dorsey warned about the dangers of growing too quickly and said that the company must be careful not to lose sight of what matters most. He wrote that the company had grown rapidly since its founding in 2006, adding that it needed to avoid becoming “too big, too unwieldy.”

In recent months, however, Twitter has faced criticism for some of its decisions, including the way it handled the presidential election and the spread of misinformation during the 2016 campaign. On Thursday, the company announced plans to lay off hundreds of employees, mostly in engineering, while cutting costs across the board. The layoffs come just weeks after Twitter hired a chief financial officer, Biz Stone, to lead its finance team.

The moves follow a turbulent few days for Twitter, which lost one of its top executives, Alex Macgillivray, earlier this week. Macgillivray left the company amid reports that he clashed with Dorsey over the direction of the company.

And there are signs that the company’s problems aren’t limited to the workplace. A report published Wednesday showed that Twitter’s ad revenues dropped nearly 40% in 2018 compared with 2017. And according to the Wall Street Journal, Twitter’s stock price fell nearly 10% following the announcement of the layoffs.

Global implications

Ingle is also worried about what might happen if Twitter doesn’t make changes to its policies. She points out that the company recently announced it had removed 2 million accounts since October 2018.

The number of people suspended each month has increased from 200,000 in May 2017 to 400,000 in November 2018.

In addition to the 2 million accounts, another 4.5 million tweets are deleted every day.

That’s why Ingle believes that cutting back on content moderation could put Twitter in trouble.

“Either you have content moderation or you don’t have,” she said. “You don’t kind of have content moderation.”

She added: “I think it’s very important to understand how much power we give to companies like Twitter. Either you give them too much power, or you take away their power.”

 

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