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Musk is making Twitter worse, say the platform’s top influencers

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in October, some of its most active and popular users have said they have witnessed unrest over changes introduced by the new CEO.

Six Twitter users with follower numbers ranging from more than 100,000 to several million said they encountered new types of technical issues since Musk fired around half of the company’s staff. Other issues they identified after Musk’s controversial moves include a perception rise in anti-transgender discourse and the sporadic loss of followers.

For users with large followings, Twitter has been a place to network with professionals in their chosen fields, build successful businesses, and share breaking news. Under Musk, many of them have been frustrated.

Jenn Takahashi created and runs the “Best of Nextdoor” viral account, which is known for posting funny submissions from the neighborhood watch app. In October, the account reached 550,000 Twitter followers, she said. Since Musk’s acquisition and the resulting policy changes and layoffs, the account has lost more than 13,000 followers, an unusual drop for a steadily growing account. Musk had announced he wanted to “defeat the bots” on the platform, which could explain some loss of followers, but Takahashi suspects thousands of people have deactivated their accounts since the tumultuous takeover.

“As soon as Elon walked into Twitter HQ with that sink, I think I lost 400 followers within the hour,” Takahashi said, referring to Musk’s pompous entrance to the company. Similarly, after Musk suspended reporters and reinstated Donald Trump’s account, Takahashi said she “noticing users leaving in droves.” Data provided by analytics company Sensor Tower watch that app installs were up 16% in Musk’s first month from the prior month, but fell 3% year over year.

Matt Nelson, who runs “We Rate Dogs,” a Twitter account with 9.3 million followers, said he also noticed a drop in followers after Musk asked if he should quit his job. CEO job (poll results favored him leaving the job) and after Musk announced that links to competing social media platforms would no longer be allowed on Twitter (he reversed his decision). According to Social Blade, an analytics firm that tracks the number of followers on social media platforms, “We Rate Dogs” lost more than 10,000 followers in the weeks following Musk’s takeover. It was the first time the account lost a significant number of followers in 2022, according to Social Blade.

In terms of technical issues, Takahashi and Nelson said their accounts frequently displayed the “Rate limit exceeded” error message when trying to refresh their notifications, something they hadn’t seen happen before. Musk’s tenure. The error message only affected their most followed accounts.

Both also declared the verified notifications tab, which now shows notifications from both old verified accounts (accounts verified before Musk’s takeover, when verification was determined by Twitter) and paid blue ticks (a feature introduced by Musk for a monthly subscription fee), has become less useful as part of the pay-to-play system.

“An account our size, we check every mention, but we kind of have to prioritize people who also have followers, where there might be a mutual fan base,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that prior to Musk’s arrival, he communicated with Twitter staff members, who engaged with top creators to share new features and gain insights. Teams that have worked with creators and advertisers have lost staff members and leadership since Musk’s takeover, and Nelson said he hasn’t spoken to anyone on Twitter since then.

Even conservative influencers Musk interacts with have complained about the platform under his stewardship – ‘catturd2’, a right-wing account with 1.2 million followers, tweeted on Tuesday that Twitter is “throwing conservatives again”. The account did not respond to a request for comment.

Prominent Twitter users also said they noticed the drop in quality of speech on the platform, including more hateful posts in direct messages and replies.

Clara Sorrenti, also known by her handle “Keffals,” said she noticed accounts responding to her with transphobic rhetoric were being suspended more slowly. Sorrenti, who is transgender and has 150,000 Twitter followers, said users who abused her or used her dead name (her name before she transitioned) were suspended for violating Twitter’s hate speech policies. Over the past month, Sorrenti said, she’s noticed fewer of those accounts being disciplined.

“Transphobia is getting worse on the platform,” Sorrenti said, adding that Musk himself tweeted that people shouldn’t be forced to use preferred pronouns and engaged with “Libs of TikTok.” and other anti-LGBTQ figures. Musk has used his Twitter account, with 124 million followers, both to share his opinions and to dictate new Twitter policy, such as when he tweeted that sharing a user’s real-time location would be considered “doxxing” and was no longer allowed.

“It’s very confusing for me to know what his personal opinion is and what Twitter policy is because he announces everything through his personal account,” Sorrenti said.

Queer Twitter figures said harassment based on gender, sexuality and race persisted long before Musk became CEO, but noted that his apparent complicity with conservative influencers was accompanied by an influx of sectarian responses and direct messages.

Since acquiring Musk, Takahashi has launched a new account called “Best of Dying Twitter”, which has amassed 65,000 followers in two months. It lists tweets from and about Musk, including reports about the disruption of Twitter staff, suspended accounts Musk has restored, and major moments on Musk’s Twitter.

Takahashi said people staying on Twitter “wanted to watch the show” which takes place under Musk’s direction. But her documentation of the past two months has also led to an increase in harassment, she said.

Takahashi shared a screenshot of a direct message request she received that linked her and other accounts that criticized Musk with pedophilia. Twitter, as well as other social media platforms, such as Reddit, have seen one month increase in rhetoric that mistakenly associates the LGBTQ community with pedophilia and the “grooming” of children.

“I’ve never had so many trolls in my replies and DMs,” Takahashi said. “I’ve been called things that I’ve never been called in my life.”

Twitter is just one of the platforms that some of the most followed users, like Nelson and Sorrenti, use. Sorrenti said she tends to tweet, reply to friends, and log off immediately afterwards because, for her, the platform isn’t fun right now. She continues to use it though, as it helps direct people to her Twitch account.

The “We Rate Dogs” brand has posted on other platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, and while Nelson said the Twitter meme format works best with his content, he thinks an adaptation to other sites of social media is possible. He launched a series of TikTok videos of the Top Five Dogs of the Week, which led to a surge in TikTok popularity.

“I think we’re ingrained enough in the internet culture that when people see us elsewhere, they’re ready to follow, they’re ready to engage,” Nelson said. “We have our eggs in multiple baskets, not just on Twitter. But it’s the place where it works best and we have to adapt.

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