The future of the social network at the blue bird appears very uncertain after a week as turbulent as the previous ones, between new bleeding of the workforce and restoration of Donald Trump’s account, a probable source of controversy. A question comes up more and more regularly: what would a world look like without Twitter?
With approximately 237 million daily users at the last tally, at the end of June, Twitter is much more modest than Facebook (1.98 billion), TikTok (more than a billion), but also Snapchat (363 million). little more than 15 years, the platform has become an essential place for leaders, companies, celebrities and the media, who are sometimes satisfied with this channel to communicate.
“The world would be fine without Twitter”
Twitter “is nothing essential”, launched, on his account, Steven Cohn, New York entrepreneur. “The world would be fine without Twitter,” he insisted, convinced, like others, that the country of tweets is only a microcosm, of limited real importance. tweets comes from 1%” of users, he wrote. “Most normal people never log on.”
On the contrary, for Karen North, professor at USC Annenberg University, “what is really strong with Twitter is that anyone can announce something there that can be seen by everyone”. conflict, social movement, wave of repression, “Twitter has become a central platform for being able to report the reality of what is happening on the ground,” said Charles Lister, of the Middle East Institute think tank in Washington.
Like most other social networks, Twitter is also used to spread propaganda and false information. The company has developed moderation tools to deal with this, but their sustainability is in question after the departure of more than two thirds of the teams.
A study published in 2018 showed that false information circulated there faster than verified information. “It is not realistic to imagine a platform where disinformation would be impossible”, tempers Charles Lister. “To see information, right and wrong, disappear,” with the eventual dissolution of Twitter, “is, by definition, a bad thing.”
“Authoritarian leaders or anyone who doesn’t want information shared could benefit from a world without Twitter,” said Arizona State University professor Mark Hass.
“It would be terrible for journalism,” adds Karen North. Because “Twitter is not a social network”, she says, “it is a network of news and information, the meeting point where journalists go to update themselves, to find an idea of subject , source or citation.”
With the reductions in staff and the drop in budgets experienced by the press for more than a decade, “there are no longer sufficient resources to seek sources in the field”, argues the academic.
Another perverse effect, according to her, “without Twitter, the people who will have access to the media will be those who are already important enough for the press to listen to them. With Twitter, anyone can tell a story.”
Another function of this collaborative space, “Twitter has become a vital source of information, advice, mutual aid during hurricanes, forest fires, wars, terrorist attacks or epidemics”, tweeted Caroline Orr, researcher at the University of Maryland.
“It’s not something that can be replaced by existing platforms,” she warns.
Overall, the question of possible alternatives to Twitter does not raise an obvious answer.
“Facebook has its uses, but it’s a bit outdated,” says Charles Lister.
“Competitors of Twitter will no doubt recover users,” predicts Mark Hass, who mentions the social network Mastodon, “but they will probably remain niches. None of them will become the public square that Twitter has sought to create.
He believes more in the potential of the community site Reddit, like Karen North, for whom this social network is nevertheless limited, as it is, by its minimalist and cluttered presentation, without comparison with the ease of use of a Twitter.
“I don’t believe there is anything today that offers the same added value as Twitter,” says Charles Lister. “Could it be replicated? Of course,” he says, “but that would require enormous resources and a significant timeframe.”
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