Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in October 2022, he's managed to damage its brand to the tune of over twenty billion dollars: in an email to employees sent on Friday, he admitted that the social network he paid $44 billion for is now worth around $20 billion.
It may be even worse than that, because Musk borrowed $12.7 billion from banks to finance the takeover and is currently predicting just $3bn in annual turnover. That suggests that even $20 billion is overly generous.
Unless Musk personally reprograms Tesla's software to start running over orphans, puppies and nuns, it's hard to imagine him doing yet more damage on such a massive scale. But bless him, he's going to give it a go. In Musk's latest move to turn what everybody already calls "the hellsite" into something even more hellish, he's going to turn your entire For You feed into Twitter Blue.
For You is already terrible – it routinely shows me content by people who I've blocked, who have blocked me or who should be hurled into a cupboard and then have the cupboard bricked up, and then the building bricked up just to be safe – but it's about to get a whole lot worse.
For You is becoming all Blue
According to Musk, from 15 April the only accounts you'll see in For You are the ones who pay for Twitter Blue. And if you run Twitter polls, only Twitter Blue subscribers will be able to vote.
So much for the free speech platform. For You will now be exclusively for people who pay, and from what I've seen in recent months the kind of people who pay are exactly the people you don't want to be appearing in your Twitter feed. They're also a tiny percentage of the overall Twitter population.
Since Musk took over Twitter and started reinstating banned accounts and sacking moderation staff, hate speech has soared. And from what I've seen of Twitter Blue, the people who are paying for it are some of the worst trolls around – many of them people who were previously banned for multiple counts of hate speech and abuse. As Hatewatch found in the first couple of days of Twitter Blue, "white nationalists, anti-LGBTQ extremists and other far-right individuals and groups now sport what was once a symbol of credibility on the platform."
And now Musk wants them front and centre in your feed while shoving the people you actually do want to hear from into the Following tab, a tab that never seems to work very well.
The move makes sense if you want a feed full of idiots and Musk fanboys. But it's incredibly user-hostile, and from Twitter's point of view utterly self-defeating too. Who's going to pay top dollar to advertise next to neo-nazis, transphobes, vaccine deniers and the other inhabitants of the Twitter Blue clown car?
I can only think of two possible explanations for this. One, Elon Musk is a super-genius conducting an important psychological experiment on a global scale to find out just how evil you can make a social network before it completely collapses. Or two, Musk is a bloody idiot who's showing us his whole arse on an almost daily basis. I know which one I'd put money on – money I sure as hell won't be spending on Twitter Blue.