Since its acquisition by Elon Musk, X, formerly known as Twitter, has become a subject of intense scrutiny and criticism from high-profile technology figures. One such critic is Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, who has openly expressed his concerns about the social media platform. In a recent interview at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, Wales stated that X is losing users and has been “overrun by trolls and lunatics.” This article aims to analyze the validity of Wales’ claims and shed light on the state of X in the current social media landscape.
According to research from analytics firm Similarweb, engagement metrics for X have significantly decreased compared to previous years. This decline in user engagement raises questions about the platform’s ability to maintain an active and valuable user base. The dwindling participation on X indicates that users are seeking alternatives due to various concerns, including the presence of trolls and a deteriorating online environment.
Wales argues that X, like its predecessor Twitter, has served as the default public square for the world. However, its transformation into a breeding ground for trolls and lunatics has raised doubts about its ability to fulfill this essential role. When social media platforms become overrun by individuals engaging in toxic behavior, it not only discourages thoughtful and serious users from participating, but it also undermines the overall value of the platform.
The ongoing animosity between Elon Musk and Jimmy Wales dates back to last year when Musk accused Wikipedia of having a “non-trivial left-wing bias.” This accusation stemmed from Wikipedia editors debating whether or not to remove the platform’s entry on the Twitter Files, which Musk claimed contained evidence of biased content moderation against conservatives. Although the entry was not ultimately removed, this rhetoric highlights the divide between Musk and Wales.
Wikipedia’s reliance on a community of volunteers to maintain its content has often been praised for its transparency and democratic nature. Wales, in response to Musk’s accusations, defended the platform’s practice of “thoughtful editorial judgment.” He emphasized that what Musk refers to as censorship is simply the result of responsible content moderation. This distinction underscores the differing perspectives between Musk and Wikipedia regarding the platform’s purpose and approach.
In light of his concerns about X, Wales has decided to launch his own social media platform, called Trust Cafe. Described as a “pilot project,” Trust Cafe aims to foster a community of trustworthy individuals and prioritize content based on its trustworthiness rather than its viral likability. Unlike X, Trust Cafe does not rely on advertisements; instead, it offers voluntary membership. Wales acknowledges that finding ways to incentivize users to pay for the service is a challenge but remains determined to create a quality experience that enhances their lives.
Jimmy Wales’ criticisms of X, formerly known as Twitter, highlight the platform’s decline in user engagement and the prevalence of toxic behavior. The ongoing war of words between Wales and Elon Musk reflects a fundamental disagreement about editorial judgment and the role of social media in providing a public square for global discourse. Wales’ own venture, Trust Cafe, represents his attempt to address these concerns and offer an alternative platform based on trust and quality content. As social media continues to evolve, addressing the issues raised by Wales will be crucial for the long-term sustainability and relevance of platforms like X.