The app in its present form can dovetail into silly season, but it’s mostly harmless fun. The playground where we all can indulge in our most guilty of pleasures: reading people’s misuse of “your” and “you’re” when they disagree with a sportswriter’s opinion, playing Nancy Drew whenever an athlete posts a cryptic message, waiting for Kevin Durant to search his name and then try to dunk on someone with 20 followers. And our favorite new game: “Which Coach Will Read It On Woj’s Timeline First Before He Actually Gets Fired?”
How Elon Musk played Twitter
But if Musk’s $43 billion hostile takeover succeeds, then Evil Sports Twitter will become the mosh pit of misinformation. Musk fancies himself a “free speech absolutist,” meaning any speech goes and should not be redacted nor suppressed. Even if it involves branding someone as a pedophile to 80 million followers — as Musk did in 2018 — for kicks and giggles.
This type of mayhem is already happening in 280 characters at a time all across the platform. Say something benign about Brian Flores’s class-action lawsuit against the NFL and prepare for the deluge of accusations of being a race-baiter. Agree with the decision from Major League Baseball and the players association to extend Trevor Bauer’s administrative leave and watch out for the wannabe defense attorneys who too quickly rely on his courtroom win even though he has admitted to physically assaulting his sexual partner. And whatever you do — please, please — don’t you dare be a woman bold enough to write something on Twitter.
so you might argue, we already fight like children on this here cesspool of an app. What’s going to be so different if Musk takes over?
plenty. Every day will be April Fools’ Day on Sports Twitter. There’s already a proliferation of fake news generated by users with too much time on their hands, but imagine even more fake Adam Schefter accounts popping up with designs of fooling not only the public but his own place of employment.
We have grown accustomed to believing that the amount of followers someone has equates to their veracity. So when those graphic images that feature an athlete or coach and their juicy quotes in big, block letters appear in our timeline, we’re programmed to trust it. But imagine more fake news outlets attribution fiction to real people, such as Los Angeles Clippers forward Marcus Morris Jr. dissing the 2020 Lakers Championship. That never happened, but Morris found his likeness on a parody account and felt strongly enough to deny the “report” in a tweet, which he later deleted.
Also, athletes should be ready for even more well-thought-out and insightful comments from egg profiles. If anything goes, as Musk wishes, there would be no recourse in stopping verbal abuse from the Twitter Thugs who feel emboldened to post their most vile thoughts under the cover of anonymity.
Many users on the platform have been banned in the past for spreading misinformation; a quibble of those who decry Twitter as a form of censorship. Although we should vigilantly fight for free speech and evict ourselves from our own echo chambers, we must also be mature enough to know the difference between unshackled expression and straight-up lies. Free speech should be protected. The open-door accessibility to deceive and negatively influence the public should not.
But take the brakes off, eschew any form of moderation and legitimize all kinds of speech, and the gutter version of this network will be magnified. Luckily for us, the devolution of our society will wait, for now.
Five reasons it will be hard for Elon Musk to buy Twitter
On Friday, Twitter pressed the block button on Musk’s takeover bid by enacting a “poison pill” play. Think of it as an attempt to stop more fake news breaker accounts from tweeting that Kyler Murray, two future first-rounders and a gallon of Arizona iced tea have been traded to Detroit.
Twitter doesn’t have to play up our darkest and dumbest impulses. It truly can be a marketplace of ideas where many of us go and shop around — for links to stories that humanize our sports heroes, for a virtual sports bar where we react and rejoice together while watching the big game or just for those delicious clips of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark raining threes from the logo.
In its highest form, Sports Twitter can educate and entertain us. But with Musk — and without a referee — our favorite playground would become just another place where we can’t escape the ugliness of our society.