Internet: Twitter Musk = X: How a year changed the platform

A year after Elon Musk shelled out around $44 billion to buy Twitter, it is clear: it is a different platform.

Internet: Twitter Musk = X: How a year changed the platform

A year after Elon Musk shelled out around $44 billion to buy Twitter, it is clear: it is a different platform. On the one hand, the name: What used to be Twitter is now called leaves.

More serious than the name change (many users continue to say "tweet" and "tweet") are the many changes with which the tech billionaire has left his mark on the platform.

The previously free white and blue ticks that clearly identified celebrities or politicians can now be bought by anyone for just under ten dollars or euros: without real identity verification, which makes them rather pointless as verification symbols. Companies can also mark their X-profiles with a gold checkmark symbol. In Germany, for example, this costs 1,130.50 euros per month - plus 59.50 euros for each linked employee account.

Thousands of employees laid off

Musk fired around half of Twitter's former 8,000 employees. In addition to programmers, teams that were responsible for combating hate speech and misinformation on the platform were severely affected. Not a big loss from the new owner's perspective: After all, the team responsible for election integrity tended to undermine them, Musk wrote. "They're gone."

Musk is firmly committed to the political positions of the US right. The old Twitter practiced censorship in the interests of the left, he claims. The “woke brain virus” is destroying humanity, President Joe Biden’s Democrats are “a party of hate,” the established media is racist against whites, schools are “infusing poison into our children’s ears instead of knowledge,” and Europe is threatened because of the Immigration is a civil war - these are just some of Musk's views. He also likes to serve as an amplifier for similar opinions from other accounts for his now 160 million X followers.

Musk is very present on Anyone who doesn't have a white-blue tick is less visible on the platform anyway - this is supposed to protect against bots and fake profiles, they say. The changes and Musk's role as a multiplier are shifting the balance at

After the Islamist Hamas attack on Israel, a small group of seven accounts was responsible for a significant proportion of the content that was viewed on X surrounding the conflict, the researchers found in their analysis. In the first three days after the attack, a good 1,800 posts from this group were seen 1.6 billion times. The accounts of the New York Times, CNN, BBC and the Reuters news agency, which have many more followers, only received 112 million views with 298 posts. According to the analysis platform Similarweb, three to four percent of visitors to the New York Times website came from Twitter three years ago. This value has recently fallen to one percent.

Musk swears by tips from users

Musk swears by “citizen journalism” and “community notes” attached to X-posts that allow users to point out misleading or false information. After the Hamas attack, it sometimes took a long time for such notes to be published. The EU Commission now has questions about how X deals with hate speech and misinformation. EU Commissioner Thierry Breton referred to reports of manipulated images and recordings from video games that were passed off as real recordings. This can be expensive: violating the DSA digital law can result in high fines. Musk recently rejected a report that he was considering withdrawing X from the EU.

Musk, who was committed to "absolute freedom of speech" when taking over, also does not want to accept the frequent accusation that there is more hate speech at X. X took critical online researchers from the CCDH organization to court, who concluded during tests that such content remained on the platform if it came from subscription customers. Musk also threatened the Jewish organization ADL with a lawsuit because it spoke of growing anti-Semitism on X. Musk closed interfaces through which online researchers could investigate hate speech and misinformation.

The platform still needs money. Musk confirmed several times that X's advertising revenue was about half what it once was at Twitter. He relies on subscription income. This restricted how many posts free users can see per day. In New Zealand and the Philippines, new users can only publish posts and redistribute others' posts for a fee of one US dollar per year on a trial basis. For free, you can only use X passively: read posts, watch videos, follow other users.

The number of users is falling

Not only advertisers, but also some users turned their backs on X. The service itself no longer publishes information about user numbers. However, the analysis company Apptopia assumes that the daily number of users has since fallen from 140 million to 121 million. The estimate, reported by the industry blog "Big Technology", is one of the few attempts to estimate the user base. Similarweb calculated a decline in traffic to the web version of X by around 15 percent. Musk's profile received almost twice as many visits in September as it did a year ago.

At the same time, no fully-fledged alternative has emerged this year. The competing service Threads from the Facebook group Meta started off strong in the summer - but user activity quickly declined again. Threads is not available in the EU. The Bluesky app, which is very reminiscent of the old Twitter, only cracked the one million user mark in September. And shortly before the anniversary of the Twitter purchase, one of the challengers gave up: Pebble - originally known as T2 - is going offline. Co-founder and boss Gabor Scelle noted that they had grown too slowly to convince investors.