On October 27, Elon Musk became the new CEO of Twitter. It does not seem to be going well.
As a publication that closely watches antisemitism and other forms of hatred, Moment is keeping a close eye on what’s going on at Twitter. Since it was founded in 2006, Twitter has become an important platform for discourse, some of it civil and some of it decidedly not so. We are carefully monitoring what is happening there now and will continue to do so.
Since Musk took over on October 27, less than two weeks before the midterm elections, he’s managed to stir up controversy and introduce his signature chaos in a variety of ways. Regular users of the site are frustrated at his monetization plans, which include requiring users to pay monthly fees for identity verification and potentially limiting the reach of accounts that don’t pay fees.
In addition, Musk has a habit of allying himself with conspiratorial and reactionary movements using the banner of free speech. He tweeted a link to an article about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi that was full of baseless claims linked to conspiracy theories (which he deleted after it caused an outcry). Most alarming is his lax attitude toward moderation: Since his takeover, the site has seen a visible spike in hate speech, and accounts previously banned for hateful conduct began being reinstated, most notably that of Ye (formerly Kanye West.) As a result, various civil rights groups, including the ADL and NAACP, are calling for an advertiser boycott of Twitter.
For outsiders, it can be impossible to measure the exact impact that these calls have had on the site: Twitter has acknowledged loss of advertisers but has not been forthcoming about the number. Well-known users are reporting losses of followers in the hundreds or even thousands. Some say that many of these lost accounts are merely bots or inactive, but without transparency it’s hard to evaluate these claims. Of course, Twitter is not alone in its troubles. The “legacy” social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, have struggled to stay relevant amid ever-shortening attention spans and new competition. Instagram has tried (and failed) to capture the appeal of TikTok through Instagram Reels. YouTube has spent years plagued by creator discontent over copyright policy and on-site harassment, now with the added stress of competing with TikTok and Twitch. And Facebook, unable to contain the golem it unleashed, has gone from being the only game in town to focusing on the “metaverse,” a seemingly harmless but likely doomed endeavor from a company that’s spent years struggling to keep up with its competition.
All these new developments amplify what are already the built-in challenges of managing social media for an organization like Moment. To begin with, there’s a built-in disconnect/dissonance. Major platforms such as Twitter are designed to keep users on-app, engaged in hyperbole, snap judgments and constant scrolling. The average Moment story is designed to make you think, to take you outside of your bubble and experience the combination of empathy, curiosity and contemplation that is at the core of our work. Still, like nearly every other journalism organization, we have to pay attention to Twitter content. Our staff keeps abreast of news and ideas circulating on Twitter, knowing of course that whatever we read has to be fact checked. We also tweet our stories and events, the way other media organizations do, in an effort to broaden their reach.
So what does this mean for Moment, and for you, our readers? We will continue posting to legacy social media platforms. While they may be in decline, they still offer us access to readers our work might not otherwise reach. That being said, in an era where so many of our conversations happen on private company servers, we need to accept that no platform is “too big to fail.” That means encouraging people to visit our website and explore subscription options, as well as sign up for our newsletters, including Moment Minute and Jewish Politics and Power. At the same time, it’s important for us to spread our work around the web, seeking new platforms as venues of discourse. That’s why, in addition to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Youtube, we also now have a reddit forum, or subreddit, /r/momentmagazine, for discussions of the articles in our magazine and on our website. We’ll also be posting short videos on our TikTok page, @momentmagazine, about great Moment stories, past and present. We will be livestreaming on Twitch at twitch.tv/momentmagazine, and can be found on the new social network Mastodon at mastodon.online/@momentmag. Moment is also partnering with Swell, a new app that facilitates micropodcasting. We’re excited to learn more as we explore new ways to engage readers, Jewish and otherwise, with our thoughtful coverage of a changing world.