The Post-Twitter Promised Land

Twitter polling appears to be Musk’s new love language: a bow to his primal narcissism, the veil of populism, and an element of C.Y.A. executing on the fly. Photo: Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images
Baratunde Thurston
November 27, 2022

The richest man in the world has continued putting his fingerprints on Twitter by welcoming back previously barred users, revamping the predictably-failed verification subscription program, and vaguely hinting at a Twitter phone. Yes, like a physical smartphone. Right. Let’s start with the banned accounts. 

In May, Elon Musk promised to reinstate Trump, so we all expected it. But on October 28, Musk appeared to reconsider and tweeted, “Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.” This came amid fears that advertisers would be inclined to sit out a toxic, Trump- and insurrection-friendly environment. For a brief moment, handfuls of people thought Musk might actually take a considered approach to the Trump reinstatement decision. Of course, he would not. As is well known, on November 18, he tweeted a poll offering “Yes” and “No” choices on reinstating Trump. The “Yes” votes narrowly won, so that was that. Vox populi, vox dei?

Musk has barrelled into his new role by firing people, sometimes the wrong people, then re-hiring them, only to fire them again. He’s complained that he’s working really hard at Twitter, spending weekends at the company’s headquarters. He clearly doesn’t have time to hire members of a content council. That’s precious firing time. That’s precious launch-new-features-without-thought time. So he replaced those new jobs and their associated labor costs, with an online poll from his own account. See? Efficient automation! It’s just like self-landing rockets. The next day, Trump’s account was back online, though Trump himself was not. He’s so far said he’ll stay on Truth Social, though my Puck partner Tara Palmeri recently reported that this is merely a negotiating technique. Even Trump knows he can’t mount a viable presidential bid with four million followers on a captive network for insurrectionists. Sad.