Why Twitter/X is grappling with demise after a year under Elon Musk (Opinion)

In just one year, Elon Musk managed to almost ruin Twitter/X – especially in terms of credibility and reputation.

So, are you still tweeting? Sorry, Twitter has been called X for some time now. So she’s still “xxx”? Sounds strange, right? So after extinguishing, although… anyone who looks at what Elon Musk is doing with the short message service has to realize that “extinguishing” is very accurate.

The richest man in the world has owned the platform for a year, now what? The users are fleeing, so are the advertising customers, and the company’s value is evaporating; experts now estimate it to be 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price of $44 billion.

Musk fired four fifths of the former 7,500 employees, even though he had previously said the opposite. He hardly takes any action against disinformation and hate messages among users. He has fired the responsible “Trust and Safety” team and has even temporarily locked out unwanted journalists.

Twitter: Dubious sources spread

To do this, he reopened previous accounts that had been closed for good reasons, not only those of “The Donald”, but also those that had distributed child pornography. “The platform is virtually overrun by actors who spread disinformation and spread hate,” says Axel Bruns, one of the knowledgeable experts, he is a professor of media and communication research at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Musk doesn’t care. Nor whether a source is reputable. The main thing is that she pays. Then she gets the blue tick. What was once a badge of authenticity is now a label for “premium customers,” no matter how much nonsense they spout.

That has consequences.

The “NewsGuard” service, which examines websites, looked at the many false news that has been circulating on Twitter since the Hamas terrorist attack and found: “74 percent of the most common fake news” comes from these same premium customers.

Money also flows to problem customers

Musk even changed the system for how ad revenue is distributed to “content creators,” people who post text or images on social media. Money is now also flowing to problematic accounts, like Andrew Tate’s. An influencer and misogynist held in Romania on suspicion of human trafficking and forced prostitution. According to the Washington Post, Tate received $20,000.

Elon Musk is still having a good laugh: after a conference on artificial intelligence in September 2023

© AP/ / Picture Alliance

Thanks, Elon.

But what should you expect from someone who spreads conspiracy theories himself? He believes that we all live in a kind of “matrix” simulation, who considers public buses and trains to be “absolutely terrible” because there are possible serial killers there, who denies man-made climate change, who described the Covid curfews as fascist, who the “woke culture” was judged to be a “virus that tries to destroy civilization” and that shares videos calling for the AfD to be voted for.


One year of Twitter at Elon Musk means one year of decline. Over $30 billion in market value has been lost, a good two billion in advertising dollars have been lost, thousands of jobs have been destroyed, and a news source that is important to many is squandering brown ideas. “Twitter has become an inhospitable place,” says Swiss investigative journalist Adrienne Fichter. She said that a year ago. She was right.

The principle of creative destruction

This must be this great “disruption” that the tech disciples are raving about. Simply destroy everything and then rebuild it, “creative destruction” is what the economist Joseph Schumpeter, also a strange pillar saint, called this.

These destruction gurus have not understood the basic idea of ​​any economy. It’s called trust. Trust in a product that works. Trust in a company that produces it. Trust in the owner that he won’t do any nonsense. Once trust is gone, it is difficult to get it back.

A year ago, Twitter was a useful medium. A place where everyone could get information before content appeared in the newspapers or flickered across television screens. It had weaknesses, to be sure, but those who learned to distinguish wrong from right liked it.

Twitter created communities of like-minded people, says Sonja Utz, professor at the Leibniz Institute for Knowledge Media in Tübingen. By looking at tweets, everyone can get an overview of “who is doing what in their own field or what is currently happening,” she says. That is over, she now speaks of a “loss of social capital.”

The dispute flared up on Twitter in Brussels over whether Greece was allowed to stay in the euro or not. On Twitter, everyone experienced the 2020 US election so intensely until they knew when Trump had lost. Scientists published the latest studies on Corona and how virus variants spread on Twitter. Angry Chinese people protested on Twitter during the pandemic when their government walled them up in their homes. Iranians cried out on Twitter as Iranian moral watchdogs arrested Jina Mahsa Amini for violating headscarf rules and later died. The Ukrainians showed their successes in the fight against the Russians on Twitter, and without Twitter Karl Lauterbach would probably never have become Federal Minister of Health.

Trump wrote 57,000 tweets

Without Twitter, however, Donald Trump would never have been elected US President. The man was obsessed with the short message service; he has distributed a good 57,000 tweets since May 2009, when he started there, and 25,000 during his presidency alone. He ruled with it, incited his followers and spread his lies. Without such platforms, US society would be less divided and so would German society.

Illuminated "X" on the roof of the former Twitter headquarters

After a year under Elon Musk, “X” has lost much of the appeal of the former Twitter company

© AP/ / Picture Alliance

Twitter is a “Doctor Jekyll-Mister Hyde” medium. But as in the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the good Doctor Jekyll disappears and the evil Mr. Hyde takes over.

Elon Musk also shows the same transformation.

The man has his merits. He wasn’t just a template for Hollywood writers to develop the quirky billionaire and industrialist Tony Stark for the “Ironman” films (although Musk even appeared in “Ironman 2”). Musk helped develop the online payment system PayPal, he sends rockets with satellites into space quite cheaply, and after the Russian attack he provided Ukraine with his Starlink satellites so that they are not cut off from the Internet and thus the information war against Putin’s trolls win. Which has worked surprisingly well so far.

Elon Musk is disenchanted

With Tesla, Musk shook up the car market. He showed the byzantine-leaning car managers at VW, Mercedes and Co how to build desirable electric cars. The fact that Brandenburg’s economy grew by six percent in the first half of the year compared to the previous year – while the economy in Germany as a whole shrank by 0.3 percent – was primarily due to the Tesla factory in Grünheide. Economics Minister Robert Habeck saw the “Tesla pace” as a role model for modernizing the country. In the meantime he is checking whether his house is saying goodbye to X.

A year of Twitter for Musk has also disenchanted the multi-billionaire. The supposed rock star of the tech industry increasingly turned out to be a crazy person with too much money and power.

And now? Does this horrific decline teach us anything?

Yes. For example, how important independent news channels are. We need institutions like public broadcasting. They ensure that people are fairly informed and do not depend on the profit interests of Messrs. Musk, Zuckerberg, Springer and Co. Anyone who insults ARD and ZDF should know the alternatives. They are X, Fox News or Telegram. The traditional newspapers and magazines that still exist are trying to reinvent themselves digitally, but they are also fighting decline. The exit is open.

Taming tech giants

Leaving Twitter revealed even more. For example, that disruption is overrated as a business model. It may be that corporations, institutions or authorities are sometimes slow, but destroying everything just because of that is not progress. Not all bureaucracy is unnecessary; The legal system, welfare state, workers’ rights and environmental standards are not junk that some “tech bros” from California are allowed to clear away. We chose these achievements with our vote and should defend them.

Fortunately, the state has woken up. The EU Commission, for example, has issued various rules to tame the tech giants. The “Digital Service Act” can be used to combat illegal content on the platforms if the project is brought to life. Maybe the EU commissioners should learn from the internet bosses and just be “disruptive”. Why not block X if the service continues to spread lies?

It wouldn’t do much harm. The Internet channel is increasingly failing as a reputable source. He is closer to death than to life. The aforementioned Professor Bruns only stays there out of “morbid interest” because he wants to “observe the decline of a once important medium up close and in real time.” It’s fodder for researchers if Twitter dies. Tweet after tweet. Or X for X. Elon Musk can still choose. Apparently it’s like in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, in the end Mr. Hyde was dead.