Washington Is Getting More And More Upset By Twitter

Professional Washington is confused about how to handle Elon Musk’s tumultuous acquisition of Twitter, which was up until last week the Beltway’s preferred fast-twitch communication tool. Megan Schmidt, a media strategist at the communications agency Mission North with many Washington cybersecurity clients, said “The Elon takeover is all anybody can talk about.”

Since taking over the business two weeks ago, Musk has fired half the workers, tweeted a far-right conspiracy theory, drawn the ire of the FTC, and apparently lost the top executives in charge of ensuring the platform’s material is trustworthy. According to reports, Twitter’s underlying software is apparently beginning to crack for some users because there aren’t enough engineers to keep it up to date.

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When it comes to data breaches and vulnerability to hacking, cybersecurity and privacy experts are concerned that the situation is resembling the “Wild West.” There hasn’t been a large-scale exodus yet; users in politics and the media are waiting and watching, and Twitter has mostly held up as a venue for real-time news. Schmidt, however, claims that she and her colleagues are attempting to decide whether it is safe for their clients to continue running advertisements or even continue using Twitter at all.

POLITICO spoke with several Washington communications professionals who all agreed that Twitter should now be used with extreme caution by anyone concerned with their public image. Sean Higgins, a veteran of the political communications scene in Washington, D.C., and associate vice president of Precision Strategies said, “Whether it’s a politician, candidate, or a corporation, they need a platform that has credibility, that is solid, and matches with their principles.”

Under Elon Musk’s direction, Twitter hasn’t yet shown that it can offer any of those things, and that’s a concern. The main source of concern is that, in the two weeks since Musk took control of Twitter, the company has largely dismantled its prior system for verifying accounts, launched a brief subscription service that granted “verified” status to anyone willing to pay $8, and created a large number of fake accounts for executives of businesses, politicians, and government agencies.

It introduced, dropped, and reintroduced a new “official” emblem to distinguish actual accounts, however it seems to be used inconsistently. Likewise, the hashtag “United States Government organisation” is present on the Department of Defense’s Twitter account but not on those of the White House or other significant organisations like FEMA.

Higgins cautioned that businesses and advertisers did not have “very much patience” as Twitter strives to address its content control issues with a few staff. According to Musk, Twitter has benefited from all of the attention and is now more well-liked by people than ever. However, what appears to some to be a satirical free-for-all appears to others to be the quick dismantling of a platform that had, over the course of several years, developed into a consistently policed, if occasionally poisonous, public forum.

Musk’s declared intention to “disrupt” the “oligopoly on information” in the mainstream media by “elevating citizen journalism”— and, importantly, to make $8 per paid member along the way—is at the heart of Twitter’s swift operational modifications. Prior to that, the platform owner must deal with the severe real-world repercussions of damaging the device it had created to guarantee reliability.

Elon Musk’s move to monetize Twitter verification, according to Chris Riotta, a cybersecurity writer for the D.C.-based federal technology trade newspaper FCW, “marks the end of an age for social media, where Twitter users could simply authenticate whether a post is trustworthy.” Following a false tweet claiming that Eli Lilly’s insulin was suddenly free, the stock price of the insulin maker fell precipitously.

A Washington Post reporter impersonated the politician to demonstrate how simple it was, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) issued Musk a harshly worded letter requesting an explanation. Musk, in typical fashion, used Markey’s criticism as fodder for a satirical tweet, writing: “Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?” Markey did not appreciate the reply. “Fix your businesses.

Or Congress will,” the senator warned Musk in a tweet, noting that one of Musk’s businesses is subject to an FTC consent decree. The growing number of events suggest that years of work to transform Twitter from a lighthearted chat room for computer industry insiders into the most significant and trustworthy real-time online news feed have been in vain.

A crisis communications expert in D.C. with four years experience working with clients in the tech sector said: “People may be starting to lose hope that the issue can be resolved because of the contentious brand Musk has created for himself on social media and the public’s propensity to use humor to deal with current events.” The increased regulatory risk that Musk and Twitter are currently facing has already been noted by D.C.

veterans like Tom Wheeler, a visiting fellow at Brookings and a former chair of the FCC. The surprise for the next platform owner, according to Wheeler, will be how lawmakers and organisations who use Twitter for their communications would respond to “the possibility that such capricious moves could harm their political brand.”

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Senior fellow at Brookings, Mark MacCarthy, offered a direct assessment of Twitter’s latest initiative to sell verification marks. He described it as “dumb.” MacCarthy is a former employee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and an adjunct professor of communication at Georgetown.

MacCarthy expressed doubt that a “market” for verification could ever be successful and stated that Musk must return to the difficult task of identifying false accounts using signals, judgement, context, and intuition. which drives some of the exact employees he has drove away from the business.

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