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How to understand Twitter's bad new direction

Mike Elgan | Aug. 25, 2014
Twitter decides that users can't be trusted to follow the right people, so it's being turned into a second-rate Facebook.

Yes -- it's true that we don't pay for Twitter, and that it's advertiser-supported. But it's also true that when we read Twitter, we make an investment of something much more valuable than money -- time.

Using myself as an example, Twitter tells me I've posted more than 25,000 tweets since 2007. Had I known Twitter was going to censor my stream, add things to it and (eventually) algorithmically censor the way Facebook does, I would have invested my time and energy and cultivated community elsewhere.

As it is, Twitter is feeling like a bait-and-switch racket. It got us to commit our time and energy to a service that was open, a new global public square where each user determined what he or she would see or say or post or learn -- and where we would be free from Facebook's manipulative newsfeed algorithms.

Now that we've committed countless hours to building a community on Twitter, it's rapidly turning itself into another Facebook, with condescending censorship, bold policies that determine the global political conversation and now the invasion of unwanted content into our personal streams that we cannot remove.

Worst of all, this move will probably yield other Facebook-style features.

It's likely that soon enough Twitter will get auto-playing videos, algorithmically censored streams (where the majority of the posts from people you follow never appear on your stream), app spam, intrusive advertising and all the rest.

It's a tragedy and a loss for people who invested their time cultivating community on Twitter, instead of Facebook, in the belief that Twitter would be the world's minimalist, universal, open public square.


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