In October 2022, Elon Musk made headlines with his acquisition of X (formerly known as Twitter), signaling his intent to revolutionize the platform. However, his first year as the owner of X has been marred with controversies, mismanagement, and a substantial decline in the company’s reputation.
Upon taking ownership of X, Musk wasted no time implementing his vision for the platform. Executives were swiftly terminated, and the company was taken private, leaving many employees stunned and uncertain about their futures. The staff reduction from 8,000 to fewer than 1,500 personnel also sparked concerns about the platform’s ability to operate effectively. Telecommuting, once a common practice at Twitter, was abruptly abolished, creating a climate of fear rather than fostering a supportive work environment. Musk’s audacious personality and reliance on “yes men” further contributed to an atmosphere of uncertainty and instability.
One of Musk’s earliest and most drastic moves was to rebrand the platform from Twitter to X, a decision that was met with confusion and mixed reactions from users. He also departed from the globally recognized bird logo, opting for a new identity that failed to resonate with the platform’s existing user base. These changes, coupled with his controversial stance on content moderation, set the stage for the decline of the platform’s integrity.
Musk’s disregard for content moderation standards has been a significant point of contention during his tenure as owner of X. In a bid to champion free speech, he dismantled vital safeguards, enabling the spread of misinformation and hate speech. Previously banned extremists were granted access to the platform, and users were allowed to purchase account verification, effectively monetizing inaccurate and potentially harmful content. Nonprofit fact-checking organizations, such as PolitiFact, have decried these changes, highlighting their negative impact on the integrity of the information shared on X.
Amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, X faced its first significant crisis under Musk’s ownership. Experts and watchdog organizations criticized Musk for exacerbating the information crisis on the platform, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish truth from fiction. Concerns over the dissemination of bogus information and terrorist content prompted the European Commission to launch an investigation into X. Despite Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino’s expressed commitment to trust and safety, researchers remain skeptical, pointing out that the platform has neglected efforts to elevate reputable news sources.
The impact of Musk’s decision-making extends beyond user experience, taking a substantial toll on X’s advertising business. Marketers have grown disillusioned with the platform, leading to a significant decline in ad revenue. Insider Intelligence forecasts a glaring drop in ad revenue from $4.14 billion in 2022 to $2.98 billion in 2023. Musk’s attempts to monetize the platform, such as charging for previously free features and exploring subscription models, have further alienated advertisers and hindered X’s attractiveness as an advertising hub.
Under Musk’s ownership, X has experienced a decline in daily active users, losing more than 10% of its user base since the acquisition. Dissatisfied users have sought alternative social media platforms, such as Mastodon, Bluesky, and Threads, in search of a more reliable and user-centric online experience. Paradoxically, while mainstream users have been disillusioned, right-wing content has flourished on X. Musk’s decisions to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s account and disband a team dedicated to combating election misinformation have created an environment particularly favorable to extreme right-wing voices.
Elon Musk’s first year as owner of X has been marked by a series of missteps, from a drastic restructuring to a disregard for content moderation practices. These decisions have not only eroded user trust but have also significantly impacted the platform’s advertising revenue and overall integrity. Musk’s approach, focused on his own vision rather than the needs of users and advertisers, has resulted in a decline in X’s influence and status as a hub for news and social connectivity. As X moves forward, it remains to be seen whether Musk will heed the criticisms and prioritize the restoration of the platform’s user trust and integrity.