We, the members of BizWest’s news team, have held our noses at the foul musk emanating from Twitter for nearly a year, dutifully posting stories, interacting with readers as if nothing is amiss, going along to get along.
The scent has become too pungent to ignore. BizWest is now an ex-user of X.
We can’t keep pretending that this iteration of Elon Musk’s social media company X Corp. is simply the next evolution of the online “free marketplace of ideas.” It’s not. It’s become (and some might convincingly argue, always has been) a cesspool of misinformation and misanthropy, neo-Nazis and nihilists, bots and bullies.
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BizWest — for now at least — is taking our ball and going home. We will no longer tweet or respond to direct messages on the platform. In the interest of transparency, we are not at this point planning to delete our account; all of our tweets are still public. Furthermore, our hope is that the situation on X might eventually improve and we can rejoin the discourse while maintaining our existing followers and username.
Here’s how and why BizWest came to this decision:
Twitter (and X) has always had its problems. Since its inception, there have been bad actors posing as celebrities, brigading bots programmed to harass political dissidents, and plain old-fashioned jerks behaving as such for the “lulz.” But amid the morass, the social media platform was a functional and important tool for journalists and the news-hungry public.
The site supported a loose meritocracy in which the journalistic cream that rose to the top wasn’t always sourced from the blue-blooded milk cows in Washington or New York with the biggest names and most iconic mastheads.
Search and messaging functionality allowed reporters to source breaking news stories in real time. Trusted newsbreakers could publish rapidly evolving stories with a few keystrokes or thumb movements, ensuring that savvy Twitter users were often minutes or hours more up to date on breaking stories than media consumers whose diet consisted exclusively of print or television news.
Nowadays on X — which recently removed news headlines from tweets after eschewing its system of verifying journalists and their outlets in favor of a pay-to-play blue-check hierarchy that prioritizes some of the site’s most incendiary voices — it’s difficult to distinguish which posts are news stories, much less whether those stories are from reliable sources.
X and other giant social companies (Facebook carries as much, if not more, blame here) have irresponsibly sown seeds of distrust for the media and have torpedoed the concept of broadly agreed-upon versions of truth and reality, while simultaneously platforming and incentivizing conspiracy theorists. From Jan. 6 to Q Anon to COVID-19, the impact of a culture that fosters conspiracy thought and hatred of reporters who do their jobs in a good-faith effort to spread knowledge is vast and heartbreaking.
Musk’s disdain for journalists reached an almost comic zenith (or perhaps nadir is more accurate) this year when the company disbanded its media-relations department. Rather than respond to earnest requests for comments from media outlets, X auto-replied to emails sent to its press shop with the poop emoji. It’s a small thing, sure, but it’s (literally) symbolic of the value Musk and his company place on the Fourth Estate.
Musk’s game of footsie with the far right and with white supremacy ideology — from blaming the Anti-Defamation League for plummeting advertising revenue to recommending that his followers get news on Middle East conflicts from an anti-Semitic account with a history of fabricating stories — is inexcusable. The so-called “free speech absolutist” accepts no criticism or scrutiny, seeking to quash personally unflattering information and even threatening to sue a group of independent researchers documenting the rise of hate speech on X since Musk’s 2022 takeover.
Under Musk’s stewardship, it’s not just the discourse and functionality within the X platform that have declined. The company has all but abandoned its role as leader within Colorado’s business and technology community. X, which has had a local presence in Boulder since 2014 with Twitter’s acquisition of the social media application programming interface company Gnip Inc., has laid off workers and stopped paying its bills, allegedly stiffing everyone from its landlords to the small business that vacuumed the floors in its offices.
Despite this whirlpool of negativity, BizWest remains optimistic. While we encourage other local news outlets to join us as we abandon the Twitter/X ship, we hope to be back someday when the platform once again provides value for our team and our readers. In the meantime, we will remain active on Facebook and LinkedIn, and we will likely dip our toes into new social media platforms as they mature. See you on the other side!
Lucas High is associate editor of BizWest. He can be reached at email@example.com.