Twitter Is a Mess

At least the verified-but-fake tweets are sometimes funny.

As you might be aware, quite a few things have happened with the newly-owned-by-Elon-Musk Twitter in recent days. Just a week after Musk took ownership, half the company was laid off. Since then, many more have quit. Despite a greatly depleted workforce, Twitter has been cranking out new features with seemingly little thought or care.

Recently, after changing the meaning of white-on-blue “verified” checkmarks from “Twitter has confirmed that this account is controlled by who it claims to be controlled by” to “Twitter has received $8 from this account holder”, there was an incredibly predictable flurry of fake-but-verified accounts tweeting all manner of falsehoods. One of the most widespread was an announcement purportedly from Eli Lilly, regarding insulin:

A tweet stating “Insulin is free now”
Regrettably, insulin is not free.

It took several hours for that tweet to be deleted by Twitter. In that time while the truth was putting its boots on, the lie spread like wildfire, forcing Eli Lilly to respond:

A tweet which reads “We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account. Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad.”
Hey, it’s the same now-meaningless checkmark!

If you look closely at those two tweets, you’ll notice that the fake tweet came from “@EliLillyandCo”, while the real tweet came from “@LillyPad”. Even if it’s mildly clever, the real company’s username sounds faker than the fake one.

Anyhow, the next day, Eli Lilly’s stock tanked. It’s impossible to say if that occurred a result of the fake tweet, but that surely couldn’t have helped.

A chart showing a one-day 3+% drop in Eli Lilly’s stock
Correlation? Causation? We’ll never know.
[Image credit: Rafael Shimunov]

Finally, after days of the bad thing happening that everyone said would happen, Twitter paused the change:

Twitter has suspended sign-ups for its Blue subscription service after the initial rollout was marred by users who received a paid verification badge and then impersonated celebrities, politicians and brands.

At this point, you really don’t need to be more than a casual observer to see that Musk is doing a terrible job of running Twitter. Even before the mess described above, writer John Ganz had summarized things thusly:

There’s a great part of the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup where Groucho says of Chico, “He may look like an idiot, he may talk like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you, he really is an idiot.” I let it fool me: I thought, like many others, Musk must be concealing intelligence, albeit of a cunning and nasty kind, that allowed him to succeed at business. But it now seems like he might be on track to tank Twitter in a matter of weeks and perhaps even damage his other investments…Twitter has in fact been a great force for democracy, not because it helps us share ideas or rationally deliberate—God no—but because it shows the rich and powerful to be just schmucks like everyone else. All the sweaty jokes and lame memes, all the crude and harebrained ideas—that’s really him, that’s what he’s like, there’s nothing more to it!

I’m not surprised that the world’s richest person might be an overconfident idiot, but it’s still rather shocking to see a major company floundering in such egregious and public fashion.