After yet another chaotic week of mass employee departures and policy reversals, Twitter’s future seems uncertain, with users — and everyone else — increasingly asking a question: What would happen without the so-called Bird app? program, what would the world look like?

Twitter had about 237 million daily visits at the last count at the end of June, still below Facebook’s nearly 2 billion, TikTok’s more than 1 billion or even Snapchat’s 363 million.

But in the 15 years since Twitter’s founding, the platform has become a primary channel of communication for political and government leaders, corporations, celebrities and the news media.

Some, like New York entrepreneur Steve Cohen, believe the Twitterverse is an artificial microcosm of the real world with limited practical importance.

Cohen declared on his own Twitter account that Twitter was “not ‘essential’ in any way.” “The world goes on without Twitter.”

Very few actually tweet, he continued. “Almost all tweets come from (the) 1%. Most normal people never log into Twitter.”

But for others, including Karen North, a professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, the site has been integral to bringing light to lesser-known conversations.

“Most of the time, people who don’t have the reputation don’t get heard,” she said. But on Twitter, “a chance to announce things.”

In situations of conflict, social movements or repression, “I think Twitter has become a central platform that can spread truth and basic reality,” Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told AFP.

Like most other social networks, Twitter has been used to spread propaganda and misinformation, and the company has developed moderation tools to try to limit the worst.

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But with more than two-thirds of the team gone since Elon Musk’s controversial takeover, their ability to keep up with the demands of such missions has been called into question.

A 2018 study found that disinformation spreads faster than fact-checked posts.

“It’s an unrealistic expectation to imagine a platform where misinformation and disinformation are impossible,” Lister warned.

But with Twitter potentially gone, “seeing information, good or bad, gone,” “is by definition a bad thing,” Lister said.

Arizona State University (ASU) professor Mark Haas added: “Dictators and anyone who doesn’t want information to be widely shared could from the disappearance of Twitter.”

public square

Experts say Twitter’s failure could have devastating effects on journalism.

“Twitter…isn’t really a social network,” North explained. “It’s a news and information network.”

“It’s a place, a central hub for journalists to get an alert, a story idea, a headline, a source or a quote,” she said.

With newsroom workforces and budgets dwindling, even the best-funded newsrooms don’t have the resources to “go around the world to find sources,” North laments.

Twitter, she said, is where most of the work can be done.

Another knock-on effect of the platform’s potential collapse is that without Twitter, the world’s richest and most powerful celebrities and politicians would still be able to attract media attention, while those less visible would struggle to get it, North said. .

“With Twitter, anyone can post a story,” she said.

This site is used as a means of sharing information in real time.

“During hurricanes, wildfires, wars, outbreaks, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and more, Twitter has been a great source of information, networking, guidance, real-time updates, community mutual aid, and more,” tweeted University of Maryland researcher Carlo Lyn Orr

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“It’s not something that any existing platform can replace.”

Right now, the solution to a potential Twitter alternative isn’t obvious.

“Facebook is valuable, but I think it’s a bit outdated,” Lister said.

Smaller Twitter competitors could siphon off users, including Mastodon, which has grown in popularity since Musk bought Twitter.

“But those are probably still niche markets, and none of them will be the public places that Twitter is trying to create,” Arizona State’s Haas said.

Both he and North cited Reddit as a possible replacement, although North said the forum-based network, limited by its fragmented and chaotic design, could not replicate Twitter’s ease of use.

Will alternatives emerge? “Of course,” added Lister, but noted that such ingenuity a lot of resources and a lot of time.

“You can’t just do it overnight.”

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