We knew Twitter was corrupt before the Musk takeover. We knew that Twitter had verified fact-checkers and the ability to de-platform individuals of power, such as then-President Trump. Yet, this piece of information has been swept under the rug. The government had backdoor access to view every user’s private messages. All of them!
“The degree to which government agencies effectively had full access to everything that was going on on Twitter blew my mind,” Musk told Tucker Carlson. Every government official and head of state uses Twitter from around the world. Twitter emerged as the favored platform for leaders to speak directly to the public in real-time. Musk also highlighted the dangers of AI in that interview, which is an important topic for another day.
Musk received backlash for labeling organizations as “state-affiliated” and later changed them to “government funded.” National Public Radio deleted their account after Musk declared they were “state-affiliated,” and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Swedish public radio also halted their accounts. Verified accounts with the blue checkmarks are only verified by supplementing a phone number. The blue checkmarks began 14 years ago when Twitter aimed to verify that accounts were real. However, they quickly became a status symbol for politicians, celebrities, activists, and journalists where their Tweets were seen as “real news” since that little blue checkmark indicated they were someone important. Some balked at paying fees for the verification, such as basketball star LeBron James, and Musk said he was personally paying for LeBron’s blue checkmark to stifle his tantrum. There are a slew of imposter accounts online now, but maybe, just maybe, people can do their own fact-checking instead of relying on what a government-funded organization says is true.
I do not think we realize how big of a hit the loss of Twitter was for intelligence agencies. EVERY politician and world leader is on there. We’ve seen how careless these politicians are with online safety (see: Hillary Clinton), and I have no doubt many used the platform to send what they thought were secretive messages.