Why Washington Can't (or Won't) Quit TwitterHistorians in the News
tags: social media, Twitter, Elon Musk
In case you haven’t heard, people are this close to leaving Twitter.
In the weeks since Elon Musk took over the platform, his erratic leadership and bewildering choices have alienated many of Twitter’s power users, a core crop of whom are part of the American political establishment. Musk has upended the service’s handling of verification, opening the door to fraud. And he’s fired many of the people, analysts argue, who kept spam, bots and hate speech from running rampant on the site. And so, some of Twitter’s best-known are promising to leave for the greener pastures of Mastodon, Instagram and TikTok.
But leaving a communications channel that’s become central to how Washington works won’t be easy.
In much of the world, Twitter seems a bit silly. Even inside the metaphorical Beltway, people will admit to it being an ego-boosting dopamine-dispensing machine if not an insular, often-toxic time suck. The truth, though, is that Washington takes Twitter very seriously. Twitter is a place where all the worlds that make up Washington — the politicians, the policy experts, the press, academics, activists, and others — gather. And in an increasingly remote age, Twitter does much of the work that physical meeting spaces once did in Washington.
For a city that never stops feasting on work, Twitter “is a bottomless bowl of soup,” says Margaret O’Mara, chair of American history at the University of Washington, where she studies the overlap of politics and tech. She was also a staffer in the Clinton White House in the 1990s.
And using Twitter well is a bit of a superpower, one that the American political class is loath to give up without a fight.
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