What would the world look like without Twitter?
The future of the social network at Bluebird looks very uncertain after a week as tumultuous as previous weeks between new labor bleeding and the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s account, a likely source of controversy. The question is more and more: what would the world look like without Twitter?
With about 237 million daily users at the end of June, Twitter is more modest than Facebook (1.98 billion), TikTok (over a billion), and Snapchat (363 million).
However, in just over 15 years, the platform has become an important destination for leaders, companies, celebrities and sometimes the media who are content to communicate through this channel.
Twitter is “not an important thing,” launched on his account, Steven Cohn, a New York entrepreneur. “The world would be fine without Twitter,” he insisted, convincing others that the country of tweets was only a microcosm, of limited real significance.
“Most tweets come from 1% of users,” he wrote. “Most normal people never log in.”
On the contrary, for USC Annenberg University professor Karen North, “What’s really powerful about Twitter is that anyone can post something that anyone can see.”
“Twitter has become a central platform for communicating the reality of what’s happening on the ground,” says Charles Lister, a think tank at the Middle East Institute in Washington. .
Like most social networks, Twitter is used to spread propaganda and false information. The company has developed moderation tools to deal with this, but their sustainability is in question after more than two-thirds of teams have left.
A study published in 2018 found that false information spreads faster than verified information.
“It’s unrealistic to imagine a platform where disinformation is impossible,” Charles Lister fumes. “To see information, right and wrong, disappear,” with Twitter’s eventual demise, “is by definition a bad thing.”
“Authoritarian leaders or anyone who doesn’t want information shared could benefit from a world without Twitter,” said Mark Hass, a professor at Arizona State University.
– “vital source” –
“It would be terrible for journalism,” adds Karen North. Because “Twitter is not a social network,” he says, “it’s a news and information network, a meeting place where journalists go to update themselves, find ideas about a topic, a source or a quote.”
The academic believes that with staff cuts and budget cuts that the press has been experiencing for more than a decade, “there are no longer enough resources to look for sources in the field.”
Another perverse effect, he says, is that “without Twitter, the people who would have access to the media would be the people who are important enough for the press to listen to them anyway. With Twitter, anyone can tell a story.”
Another function of this collaborative space, “Twitter has become an important source of information, advice, mutual aid during hurricanes, wildfires, wars, terrorist attacks or epidemics,” University of Maryland researcher Caroline Orr tweeted.
“It’s not something that can be replaced with existing platforms,” he warns.
In general, the question of possible alternatives to Twitter does not have a clear answer.
“Facebook has its uses, but it’s a bit outdated,” says Charles Lister.
Mark Hass of the social network Mastodon said, “Twitter’s competitors will certainly regain users, but they will probably remain niche. None of them will be the public square that Twitter is trying to create.”
He believes more in the potential of a Reddit community site like Karen North, but that social network is limited by its minimalistic and cluttered presentation, not compared to the ease of use of Twitter.
“I don’t believe there is anything today that offers the same added value as Twitter,” said Charles Lister.
“Can it be replicated? Sure,” he says, “but it would take a lot of resources and a significant amount of time.”