It’s been just over 60 days since Elon Musk lugged a sink into Twitter HQ for his first day in his new role as owner of the platform, and since then, we’ve seen various policy changes, staff cuts, exposes of internal documents, and more.
But now, we may be at the end of the Elon as ‘Chief Twit’ experiment, with Musk tweeting out this poll last Sunday afternoon:
The results have not gone in Musk’s favor, and he has, thus far, stuck to his word on abiding by poll results.
Which begs the question, ‘what has Elon actually done, in a policy sense, at Twitter?’
Elon’s been very keen to tout his view on ‘free speech’, and how the platform, under his ownership, will allow more types of comments and content.
But will it? Has he actually changed anything to make Twitter more open?
Here’s a look back at all of the major announcements and policy updates that have been implemented thus far by Elon and his Twitter 2.0 team.
1. Paid Verification
Musk’s first big announcement, of course, was his paid verification plan, through which people will be able to pay $8 per month to get a blue checkmark, so they can digitally cosplay as celebrities in the app.
Musk originally wanted to charge $20 per month, before realizing that was too high for normal folk who don’t have billions of dollars in discretionary spending. So he lowered it to $8, or $96 per annum to keep your blue tick – though iOS subscribers have to pay $11 per month because Elon doesn’t want to pay Apple’s 30% in-app purchase tax out of his own pocket.
Look, this is a fairly flawed, self-serving scheme, which offers little value for users, and a lot of value for Twitter, in terms of direct revenue, and as some means of verifying human users (because, at least in theory, bots can’t pay). Musk has had to revise the program to counter impersonation scams, which took off as soon as it was launched to hilarious effect, but even now, there’s not a lot of reason for people to pay up – especially when most users don’t ever tweet, so the benefits, for the majority, really aren’t worth the money.
But some people will pay, and Elon’s working on additional incentives, like priority listing of replies and in search (again, irrelevant if you don’t tweet), while he’s also flagged a new system through which paying subscribers will be able to downvote other accounts, in order to lower their tweet exposure.
2. Account Reinstatements
A big signal of his intentions to make Twitter more free and open was Musk’s announcement that he would reinstate the profiles of users that had been previously banned from the app. Well, it was less an announcement, and actually a poll among users, which has become Musk’s go-to circuit-breaker for big decisions.
Over the last month, Twitter has gone about re-instating some 60,000 accounts, belonging to those who had previously broken the platform’s rules – because Musk wants to start off new, with a clean slate.
All of these profiles still have to play by the platform rules, but some of the app’s biggest offenders of times past are now back and tweeting again.
3. Updating Twitter’s Rules and Regulations
Here’s the thing – for all of Musk’s talk of updating Twitter’s approach, and making the platform more open to more kinds of speech, Twitter itself has repeatedly told ad partners that its policies have not changed.
As Twitter shared in blog post on November 30th:
“None of our policies have changed. Our approach to policy enforcement will rely more heavily on de-amplification of violative content: freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”
Again, Twitter has not changed any of its policies as yet, and while Musk keeps talking about allowing more speech, and pointing the finger at past management for their perceived bias, Twitter’s rules around content, and what is and is not allowed in the app, are exactly the same.
4. No Doxxing
Elon Musk has, however, announced one significant policy shift:
“When someone shares an individual’s live location on Twitter, there is an increased risk of physical harm. Moving forward, we’ll remove Tweets that share this information, and accounts dedicated to sharing someone else’s live location will be suspended.”
After an incident in which his young son was confronted by a stalker, Elon decided to take decisive action against any Twitter account that shares live location info, in order to avoid potential harm.
Twitter’s new rules state that users can no longer share live location information of any kind, ‘including information shared on Twitter directly or links to 3rd-party URL(s) of travel routes’. Which, technically, rules out pretty much all live-streams, as you’d be sharing the live location of anybody featured in the video.