Twitter Files: Elon Musk reveals the bad parts of Twitter

What Twitter has revealed should serve as a warning about what takes place behind the scenes, says the writer. FILE PHOTO: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

What Twitter has revealed should serve as a warning about what takes place behind the scenes, says the writer. FILE PHOTO: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Published Dec 12, 2022


The richest man in the world has delivered on his promise to enable free speech on Twitter. Elon Musk unleashed a bombshell by releasing the Twitter files.

Essentially, the files are communications within Twitter (before Elon’s time) that show how the social media platform influenced the US elections.

One of the major highlights from the files reveal how Twitter tried to hide embarrassing information about the US President’s son, Hunter Biden.

The files also show how the US mainstream media colluded with Twitter to control the narrative during the US election period.

On the other hand, the files also show the kind of environment Elon Musk walked into when he bought Twitter. Chances are he did not know the kind of operations that took place in the company, especially around censorship.

Musk has now been forced to release information that could have been published by a fired employee at a later stage. In his words he said during one Twitter space session, “the idea here is to come clean on everything that happened in the past, to build public trust for the future”.

By revealing this information, Elon Musk has shaken the establishment and revealed what has been suspected about how the narrative is controlled.

He has also turned Twitter into being a very important media platform. He is busy turning Twitter into something that should have been done by media entities.

Some will applaud Elon Musk for being brave and releasing this information. What is also becoming clear is that content moderation is one of the hardest parts of running Twitter.

Recently, some have predicted that Twitter will fall, however the platform is still here.

The engineering part and tech elements about Twitter are the easiest for the new owner. The toughest part is deciding what kind of content can be allowed. Recently, Kanye West was allowed to come back on Twitter but was booted out again for posting an offensive tweet.

These decisions will be tough for Elon Musk as long as there’s no content moderation council as he has suggested. The social media company needs to appoint a group of people to make these decisions soon.

Besides all of these challenges, Musk leads in a way that makes the platform different from what it was. Musk is leading from the front which is the best way to run a platform like Twitter.

He makes his views known and he’s doing everything in his power to take Twitter to another level of operation. He is making Twitter a transparent platform in a way that has never been seen before.

The question is, what’s happening on other social media platforms as far as censorship is concerned? Is it possible that something similar would have happened at Facebook? To what extent do similar activities occur towards other countries?

If there’s anything to learn from the Twitter files is that countries ought to be requiring more accountability from social media companies.

It is now clear what they are capable of in terms of influencing developments in society. If they can try to influence decision making in the US, other countries are probably treated even worse.

The liberation movement in South Africa is currently preparing for a watershed moment as it elects its leadership. Could a powerful entity (government/business/organisation) collude with a social media entity and censor its content?

Could a social media entity work with a powerful entity to influence an outcome that favours the social media entity’s interest?

At this point in time we don't know.

Social media entities are not that transparent about the extent to which they are influenced by powerful players.

The Twitter Transparency report does not release enough information to indicate the extent of influence. Twitter Files show that more is happening than we are told.

What Twitter has revealed should serve as a warning about what takes place behind the scenes.

Most importantly, Twitter should not be seen as the only social media entity that has skeletons.

There's a great likelihood that more social media entities are influencing the outcome of major decisions in society.

New rules of engagement are required to close the loophole that may hurt society in the future.

* Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company (SA) magazine.

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