Twitter has been part of the information landscape for many years. In only 280 words, messages known as “tweets” have started conversations, influenced opinions, and stirred controversy and disinformation that have affected actions on health issues, commercial initiatives, and other human activities.
Recently, the quality of information that Twitter will be offering has become a cause of concern for many users after news that billionaire Elon Musk had bought the social networking service for $44 billion.
Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” had said: “I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.” The concern is, Musk “could encourage no-holds barred exchanges between the network’s 400 million users.”
How much more of free speech will be allowed in Twitter has given many users much concern. Among other social media platforms, Tweeter is already known for a more liberal stand on the sharing of ideas and opinions.
In a recent report, the “World Health Organization urged Twitter to keep working to root out disinformation, stressing that when it comes to health, good information is ‘life-saving’.”
''Good stewardship of those platforms is extremely important,'' WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan was quoted by AFP as saying to reporters.
Since the beginning of the Covid crisis, the UN health agency has voiced concerns over the flood of misinformation on Covid and vaccines. It has been working with Twitter and other social media platforms for battle this so-called “infodemic,” the AFP report said.
''We wish Mr. Musk luck with his endeavours to improve the quality of information that we all receive,'' Ryan said. ''In cases like this pandemic, good information is life-saving.''
He added it could even be ''more life-saving than having a vaccine, in the sense that bad information sends you to some very, very bad places.''
Kate O'Brien, the WHO's vaccines chief, said information spread on platforms like Twitter ''really has an impact on what people do.''
The news of Twitter’s new ownership has also resulted in many declarations to leave Twitter which trended under hashtags like #LeaveTwitter.
But where will they go? Quitting Twitter is easier said than done as its wide network of more than 400 million users (some put it at 460 million) gives one the chance to affect a global audience.
''What makes Twitter is the community, its 436 million users,'' said Leila Morch, Research Project Coordinator at Stanford University's Content Policy and Society Lab.
The world of Twitter is a mix of the human race. It attracts the media world, the pollical world, the economic world, the cultural world, the decision makers, the fence sitters. The opinion makers attract the general public and cause things to go viral.
Twitter fills up a huge part of people’s lives. From the first tweet sent by one of its founders in March 2006, it has captivated the small and the powerful. It has become a source of news, novelty, and conversation. Twitter now affects opinions and the way we live, and if we follow the path of disinformation, perhaps even the way we die.