Woman holding phone with Twitter on the screen.

A timeline of Twitter changes and commentary from ADM+S researchers

Author Kathy Nickels
Date 20 December 2022

Since Elon Musk purchased Twitter on 27 October he has made a slew of chaotic changes in attempts to raise revenue and to grapple with the complexity of governing a social media platform. 

Although Twitter has only a fraction the amount of users when compared to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, the platform plays a significant role in society and shaping public opinion.

Professor Jean Burgess, Associate Director of the ADM+S Centre says that “Twitter’s unique role is a result of the way it combines personal media use with public debate and discussion.

But this is a fragile and volatile mix – and one that has become increasingly difficult for the platform to manage.”

In managing the platform, Musk admits that “Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months”. 

We’ve provided a timeline to break down some of the recent changes to Twitter with commentary and explainers from ADM+S researchers in the field.

Twitter users vote for Elon Musk to step down as head of the company

20 December 2022

Elon Musk released a poll asking “Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll”. More than half of the 17.5 million users who responded to the poll said the billionaire shouldn’t remain at the helm. In this 4BC News Talk episode, Prof Axel Bruns says that it makes sense for a new CEO to come onboard at this time.

What comes next for Twitter and it’s community?

9 December 2022

In this article Elon Musk, Twitter’s platform culture & what comes next, Prof Jean Burgess argues that despite the chaos brought on by Elon Musk in recent months, Twitter has always been much more than a tech company. Regardless of how the story of Twitter turns out, what its user community does next will help shape the future of our media and communication environment.

COVID, vaccine misinformation ‘spiking’ on Twitter

8 December 2022

The volume of COVID misinformation significantly jumps on Twitter, while anti-vaccination networks are reforming and reorganising. Assoc. Prof Timothy Graham provides data and analysis in this article COVID, vaccine misinformation ‘spiking’ on Twitter after Elon Musk fires moderators that clearly illustrates this rise. The spike in the second half of November is partly due to the launch of anti-vax propaganda documentary, Died Suddenly as well as a change to Twitter’s COVID-19 misinformation policy on 30 Nov which states they are “no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy”.

For years, Twitter has served a vital function as an information-sharing and verification service. That’s being very rapidly eroded.

How could alternative social media platforms change the future of social media as we know it?

1 December 2022

In this article published on Medium What is happening outside of the digital town square? A glimpse into the street corners and alleyways that also make Internet social, ADM+S PhD Candidate Ashwin Nagappa describes how different alternative social media platforms work as well as the pros and cons of these de-centralised platforms compared to centralised platforms such as Twitter.

Twitter vulnerable to widespread outages and cyber attacks

22 November 2022

After a few chaotic weeks it’s clear Elon Musk is intent on taking Twitter in a direction that’s at odds with the prevailing cultures of the diverse users who call it home. With so many experienced staff gone there are concerns the platform will be vulnerable to widespread outages and cyber attacks.

In this article Thinking of breaking up with Twitter? Here’s the right way to do it , Prof Daniel Angus and Assoc Prof Timothy Graham provide tips on moving away from Twitter or better securing your data on the platform.

Concerns over volume of conspiracy theorising on Twitter during US midterms

18 November 2022

“The drastic reductions to moderation staff and changes to platform architecture and Twitter rules and policies will mean more [misinformation and disinformation] on the site and in different ways,” Assoc. Professor Timothy Graham, who researches online bots, trolls and disinformation, told RMIT Fact Lab CheckMate in the article Misinformation analyst concerned by ‘volume of conspiracy theorising’ on Twitter during US midterms.

Could Mastadon be the new Twitter?

16 November 2022

It is unclear whether users are replacing Twitter with Mastadon or whether they are sitting across both platforms. In this article Should Elon Musk really be afraid of Mastodon?, Professor Axel Bruns talks about what it would take for users to leave Twitter and what steps Mastodon would need to take to grow it’s current user base from 2.2 million to that of Twitters 238 million users.

Blue tick removed after flood of fake accounts

10 November 2022

The launch of paid verification badges resulted in a flood of fake accounts of public figures and brands with Twitter’s blue check mark. In response the company removed the paid verification badge option. On 17 November Musk tweeted “Punting relaunch of Blue Verified to November 29th to make sure that it is rock solid”.

Introduction of payment for blue tick verification is fatally flawed

7 November 2022

Primarily to raise revenue, Musk made the decision to charge US$8 a month for accounts to obtain the blue tick verification badge. Musk argued that this would solve hate speech and fake accounts by prioritising verified accounts in search, replies and mentions. If anything, this would have the opposite effect: those with enough money would dominate the public sphere.

In this article Is Twitter’s ‘blue tick’ a status symbol or ID badge? And what will happen if any can buy one?, Assoc Professor Timothy Graham revisits the controversial history of the blue tick and how this latest change would open the floodgates to inauthentic and harmful activity on the platform.

Twitter users seek alternative platforms

29 October 2022

One day after Musk closes the deal to buy Twitter Hashtags #TwitterMigration and #TwitterExodus gained popularity.

Twitter users start seeking alternative platforms with more than 70,000 users signing up to Mastodon, a microblogging site, with functions similar to Twitter.

Dr Nataliya Ilyushia, research fellow at the ADM+S, explains Mastadon, and how you can sign up to this platform in What is Mastodon, the ‘Twitter alternative’ people are flocking to? Here’s everything you need to know.

Changes to content moderation and platform governance

28 October 2022

In the Canberra times article Musk is proposing radical changes after his $US44 billion acquisition of Twitter Dr Daminao Spina says “The decision of the new CEO to fire engineers will impact the robustness of the platform, which is arguably the only thing you cannot replicate easily on other platforms.”

Musk announced that he will forgo any significant content moderation or account reinstatement decisions until after the formation of a new committee devoted to the issues. He said that “Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints,” and that “No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes”.

Elon Musk announces interest in purchasing Twitter

27 April 2022

When Elon Musk first announced his interest in purchasing Twitter earlier in April 2022, he promised to prioritise “free speech” and return the social media platform to “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”

In this article The ‘digital town square’? What does it mean when billionaires own the online spaces where we gather? (theconversation.com), Prof Jean Burgess explores the meaning of “free speech” and what the Australian Government has been doing to create safer digital spaces in which the fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected. Prof Burgess points to alternatives to for-profit social media platforms, such as the non-centralised platform Mastadon, and suggests a “blue-sky” idea – a public service internet.