Is Twitter all a joke to Elon Musk?

Do not adjust your screen. If you’re a user of Twitter desktop, you may have noticed the top left corner of your feed has transformed into a tiny dog’s head giving you a side eye. It’s a Shiba Inu and it’s also the symbol for the Dogecoin cryptocurrency. What is it doing on Twitter?

What are a lot of things doing on Twitter these days? What is Elon Musk, proud owner of the social media site since October of 2022, doing on and with Twitter? From confusion about blue checks, to ever-conflicting payment schemes, to the crypto dog (which indicates a personal vendetta), Musk is staging Twitter, a site with an estimated 450 million monthly users, as a revenge battleground.  

On Monday, after the Twitter takeover, Dogecoin saw its price jump by about 30%, as NPR and others reported. “Shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, the coin was valued at about 1 cent,” NPR wrote, citing the unsuccessful attempt to raise the value to $1 per coin. Musk has a dog — a Shiba Inu, if you will — in the fight; currently accused of a pyramid scheme due to his promotion of Dogecoin, he’s staring down a $258 billion class-action lawsuit in federal court. (Meanwhile, the cute dog who inspired the cryptocurrency image is battling leukemia and liver disease.)

When it comes to Twitter: If it’s broke, don’t fix it — break it differently.

What else is happening with the man nicknamed, because of his support of the canine crypto, “The Dogefather”? He’s decided when it comes to Twitter: If it’s broke, don’t fix it — break it differently. Some users are randomly seeing Tweets from accounts they don’t follow in their “Following” timeline. Musk Tweeted that starting this month the “For You” feed of Twitter will suggest only paid accounts, aka those who pay for the Twitter Blue and its verified check marks. Vox characterizes this abrupt shift as “just one of several seemingly random changes Musk has been making to Twitter’s core user experience without explanation.”

The blue checks specifically have emerged as a critical and confusing battleground in Musk’s war against . . . something (himself? The pressDemocracyGrimes?). Twitter under Musk first threatened a crackdown on, as CNN wrote, “blue checks granted under its old verification system — which emphasized protecting high-profile users at risk of impersonation.” If you or your company wanted to keep your blue check going forward, you needed to pay $8 monthly. Otherwise, they’d be removed.

That was supposed to happen on April 1. “Instead, Twitter appeared to target a single account from a major publication Musk dislikes and changed the language on its site in a way that obscures why users are verified,” CNN reported. Now when a person clicks on a blue check, it’s unclear if the account is notable because a user is who they say they are (a public figure like a journalist, for example, or politician), or because they’ve paid for verification. Maybe it was all a big and unwieldly April Fools’ joke, one without a punchline?

Twitter, for better or worse, gave us insight to the thoughts of public figures in real-time. 

Or maybe it was simply at the expense of one Twitter user. The main account for the New York Times was the only account to lose its checkmark in the night of a thousand blue checks. The Times said earlier they wouldn’t pay Musk’s price. But so did multiple organizations, none of whom have been stripped of the blue badge yet. 

Musk has it out for the Times, which he described as “unreadable,” writing — in a Tweet, of course – “The real tragedy of @NYTimes is that their propaganda isn’t even interesting.” Musk recently fell from the top of Forbes’ “World’s Billionaire’s List,” as he’s worth $39 billion less than last year. Perhaps Forbes is next on the blue check chopping block? 

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We learned early on that Twitter, for better or worse, gave us insight to the thoughts of public figures in real time. Now with Musk in charge, everyone who uses Twitter is being given instantaneous insight into the whims, grievances and grudges of the world’s second-richest billionaire.

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