Elon Musk launched a poll on Sunday asking users whether he should quit as Twitter CEO. It follows a decision by the company earlier in the day to ban tweets promoting rival social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, which Musk reversed a few hours later.
The billionaire said he would “abide by the results of this poll.” As of writing, 14.3 million Twitter users had taken part in the poll with 57% voting in favor of him stepping down. There is about three hours left before the poll closes later today, Dec. 19.
Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 18, 2022
Musk did not give details of when he would leave his position should the vote go against him. Elon Musk took over as CEO in October after paying $44 billion to purchase the social media firm. However, his short reign has been marred by issues of alleged policy inconsistency, abuse of power and impromptu employee sackings.
No more free promos of Facebook and others
The poll follows a change to Twitter’s “promotion of alternative social platforms policy” on Sunday.
Twitter said it will specifically “remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms.” Content that contains links or usernames for rival social media firms including Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post, is banned.
Twitter threatened to delete tweets from accounts that violated its new policy. It also said accounts may be temporarily locked or permanently suspended.
Critics described Twitter’s decision to ban mentions of competitors on its platform as an attack on free speech. Elon Musk’s acquisition of the giant social media company has been framed in this way, as a victory for freedom of speech.
“This is incredibly shortsighted,” shouted Justin Amash, libertarian and former U.S. member of Congress. “Twitter should strive to be a more open environment, not less open.”
Journalist Ashton Pittman pulled up a screenshot of an old tweet by Elon Musk. In the tweet, the billionaire explained that only a “bad socio-economic system” would build a wall to keep a rival at bay. Pittman pointed to the irony in that Twitter, championed by Musk as the citadel of free speech, is now behaving like the “bad” competitor.
Twitter may be kicked out of the EU
‘”This [Twitter rivals ban] most certainly goes against EU regulations though. It will either be reversed or Twitter will be fined heavily in Europe or kicked out,” explained Maynard Manyowa, a Zimbabwean journalist based in the United Kingdom.
The European Union’s (EU) Digital Markets Act “aims to ensure that large online platforms [also referred to as gatekeepers] behave in a fair way online.”
The Act demands that firms such as Twitter do not treat their own “services and products more favorably in ranking than similar services or products offered by third parties on the gatekeeper’s platform.” It also says that big social media companies may no longer “prevent consumers from linking up to businesses outside their platforms.”
Elon Musk later reversed the policy update. He then launched the poll and apologized. “Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. Won’t happen again,” he said in tweet. However, he also revealed that “there was no successor” to run the company as CEO after him.
No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 19, 2022
Twitter’s official account later started a separate poll asking users if the social network should have a policy stopping accounts from advertising competing social media platforms on Twitter.
Jack Dorsey donates to Twitter rival Nostr
Social media firms have been politically weaponized in the service of American interests, according to observers.
In a recent investigative article, The Intercept detailed how the U.S. government is secretly working with leading tech companies to monitor and moderate content. The firms include Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Wikipedia, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Verizon Media. The plan is to filter out content the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers “dangerous speech”.
Now other emerging decentralized social media networks are betting on taking back control of individual privacy and freedom of speech. They intend to phase out compliant, centralized firms as the de facto medium of online social interaction.
On Dec. 16, Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey donated 14 Bitcoin worth about $240,000 to Nostr Protocol, a new decentralzed social network that challenges Twitter directly. Twitter banned the protocol.
According to a Github post by developers Git-sgmoore and Fiatjaf, Nostr is an “open protocol that is able to create a censorship-resistant global ‘social’ network once and for all.”
“It doesn’t rely on any trusted central server, hence it is resilient; it is based on cryptographic keys and signatures, so it is tamperproof; it does not rely on P2P techniques, therefore it works,” they said.
Dorsey has since added his Nostro public key to his bio on Twitter. It is not clear whether this constitutes a violation of Twitter’s new policy on alternative social media platforms.
Nostr is one among a number of emerging decentralized social networks intent on giving users both the personal and financial freedom to act according to their conscience rather than under political instruction.
Right side of history
Jack Dorsey recently expressed disappointment with issues of content moderation at Twitter and how this had curtailed free speech. “The Twitter when I led it and the Twitter of today do not meet any” of the principles of resisting “corporate and government control,” he said a blog post.
It is perhaps not surprising that he has set his eyes on building truly independent platforms. The Twitter billionaire founder is also backing Bluesky, a new decentralized social media protocol.
Bluesky is building the AT Protocol, a foundation for social networking which frees developers from corporate and government control. Large-scale distributed social applications can be built using the protocol.
It aims to come up with a protocol that grants users portability, scale, and trust, it says. Portability allows users to switch between apps without losing their data; scale, allows apps to handle more traffic and then trust, preventing algorithms from profiling users.
Dorsey is planning to spend millions of dollars in donations to other emerging privacy-focused protocols.
working on granting $1mm per year for @torproject now
— jack (@jack) December 15, 2022
Over the years, key figures in Bitcoin and web3, entities predominantly on the receiving end of U.S. government intrusion, have either disapprovingly reassessed the monopoly of dominant social networks or started to delink their relationships.
The loss of confidence is symptomatic of the political entanglements of entrenched social platforms like Facebook or Google. This places decentralized crypto assets like Bitcoin and, by extension, decentralized social networks on the right side of history.