Twitter’s collapse under Elon Musk could wipe out records of human history, experts warn 


New Twitter owner Elon Musk has already said that the company faces bankruptcy and ‘will not survive’ if it doesn’t find ways to make money.

The revelation, detailed in an internal email to Twitter employees last week, has plunged the future of the popular microblogging platform into doubt. 

Now, experts have speculated what the collapse of Twitter could mean for its enormous library of tweets, many of which have historical value. 

One expert claims the potential collapse of Twitter under Musk could erase ‘vast records of recent human history’, such as contemporary accounts from the war on Ukraine and the death of Osama bin Laden. 

Since the first tweet was posted in 2006, Twitter has been the go-to place online for documenting key events, but these could be lost if the site goes bust. 

‘We’re going to lose such a lot of digital history if Twitter goes kaput without warning,’ Elise Thomas, an analyst at global think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), told MIT Technology Review.

‘[Twitter] actually represents an enormous opportunity for future historians; we’ve never had the capacity to capture this much data about any previous era in history.’ 

New Twitter owner Elon Musk has already said that the company faces bankruptcy ‘and will not survive’ if it doesn’t find ways to make money

Twitter in numbers 

  • Tweets per day: 500 million
  • Global users: 396.5 million 
  • Total UK users: 19.05 million 
  • Global active users: 230 million 
  • First tweet: March 21, 2006  
  • Daily tweet limit: 2,400 

Source: Twitter/ Statista/omnicoreagency 

Efforts to archive the vast library of tweets that are accessible on Twitter’s website could also prove impractical or expensive. 

There are said to be more than 500 million tweets posted per day, so backing up every one could be too much of a challenge. 

Third-party companies may also not have the chance to do this if the collapse of Twitter is too sudden. 

For eight years, the US Library of Congress created a public record of all tweets, but it stopped the practice in 2018, partly due to ‘an explosion in use’ that made the task too hard. 

It now only archives tweets ‘on a selective basis’. 

Ciaran O’Connor, also at ISD, said Twitter’s library of content from the last 16 years includes tweets could be used as evidence.  

‘If Twitter was to go in the morning, let’s say, all of this – all of the firsthand evidence of atrocities or potential war crimes, and all of this potential evidence – would simply disappear,’ he said. 

Although many of the tweets have a funny side, experts are concerned Musk's changes are making misinformation on Twitter even worse (file photo)

Although many of the tweets have a funny side, experts are concerned Musk’s changes are making misinformation on Twitter even worse (file photo)

Launch of Twitter Blue is suspended  

Twitter users were left baffled Elon Musk suspended the $8-a-month subscription service Twitter Blue.

Twitter Blue had been available to some users before seemingly vanishing for Apple iPhone users in the US and the UK.

Twitter Blue was launched by Twitter before Musk took over, but Musk revamped the subscription service by raising its price and making the blue verification tick a Twitter Blue exclusive.

The verification system has been exploited by fake accounts impersonating multiple different brands and people. 

Read more 

MailOnline has contacted Twitter regarding Musk’s plans to back-up its tweet library in the event of bankruptcy. 

Musk – who took out a large loan to buy the firm for $44 billion (£38 billion) – soon faces the prospect of being saddled with immense debt, which could bankrupt Twitter. 

He’s already said in a tweet that his company is losing $4 million (£3.4 million) per day. 

Advertisers have pulled out of Twitter in large numbers, scared by the bad publicity and the reported increase in hateful content on the platform.  

In a leaked internal email dated November 9, Musk said there was ‘no way to sugarcoat the message’ that Twitter ‘will not survive’ if its business model doesn’t change. 

‘Frankly, the economic picture is dire, especially for a company like ours that is so dependent on advertising in a challenging economic climate,’ Musk said. 

‘Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn. 

‘The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed.’ 

Since becoming owner, Musk – who also runs Tesla and SpaceX – has wasted no time making significant changes to Twitter, including firing top execs and dissolving the board of directors.  

The US Library of Congress (pictured) created a public record of all tweets, but it stopped the practice in 2018 partly due to 'an explosion in use'

The US Library of Congress (pictured) created a public record of all tweets, but it stopped the practice in 2018 partly due to ‘an explosion in use’

He’s also confirmed he is going to make Twitter users pay $8 per month to have a blue tick next to their account name, calling the current ‘lords and peasants’ system ‘bulls**t’. 

The rollout of the feature as part of Twitter Blue, Twitter’s subscription service, has been plagued with problems, including users impersonating celebrities and public figures. 

Musk has also already specified his intention to form a content moderation council with ‘widely diverse viewpoints’.

In addition, he has reportedly brought more than 50 of his Tesla staff who were mostly working on the electric car company’s autopilot team to review and work on code for Twitter.  

Amid the changes, many Twitter users have been starting up accounts on Mastodon, an open-source platform founded by a German software developer called Eugen Rochko in 2016. 

Pictured is the user interface of Mastodon, the free, open-source platform founded in 2016 by German Eugen Rochko

Pictured is the user interface of Mastodon, the free, open-source platform founded in 2016 by German Eugen Rochko

Mastodon has microblogging features similar to Twitter but describes itself as a ‘decentralized’ alternative that doesn’t have ‘a single company monopolizing your communication’. 

According to Mastodon, it gained more than 70,000 new sign-ups on October 28, the day after Musk finalised his takeover of Twitter. 

On November 12, Rochko said there are one million more people using Mastodon than there were on October 27, the day of the takeover.  

THE LONG ROAD TO ELON MUSK’S TWITTER TAKEOVER – AND THE CHAOS THAT FOLLOWED 

Musk’s takeover of Twitter all began on April 4, when Musk disclosed a 9.2 per cent Twitter stake, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.

The world’s richest person then agreed to join Twitter’s board, only to balk at the last minute and offer to buy the company instead for $54.20 per share.

Twitter accepted the offer later in April, but the following month Musk said the deal is on hold pending a review of bot accounts. 

His lawyers then accused Twitter of not complying with his requests for information on the subject.

The acrimony resulted in Musk telling Twitter on July 8 he was terminating the deal, and four days later, Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the acquisition.

Twitter accused Musk of buyer’s remorse, arguing he wanted out of the deal because he thought he overpaid. 

On October 4, Musk performed another U-turn, offering to complete the deal as promised. He managed to do that one day ahead of a deadline to avoid a trial. 

Since becoming owner, Musk – who also runs Tesla and SpaceX – has wasted no time making significant changes to Twitter, including firing top execs and dissolving the board of directors. 

He’s also confirmed going to make Twitter users pay $8 per month to have a blue tick next to their account name, calling the current ‘lords and peasants’ system ‘bulls**t’. 

Musk previously mulled a $20 per month blue tick verification fee, but appeared to lower the cost following criticism from horror author Stephen King;, among others. 

Musk has also already specified his intention to form a content moderation council with ‘widely diverse viewpoints’.

‘No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,’ he said.  

He has also reportedly brought more than 50 of his Tesla staff who were mostly working on the electric car company’s autopilot team to review and work on code for Twitter.   



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