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Users are split over Black Twitter’s chances to survive under Elon Musk

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Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter has unsettled many Black users.

  • Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in October, the future of Black Twitter has led to debate among scholars and its users.
  • Within the first 24 hours of Musk’s ownership, there were several reports that racist comments, hate speech and other objectionable content had increased significantly on Twitter.

Black Twitter is mourning the
possible end of the influential community they found on Twitter more than a
decade ago, but users are split between finding a new app or staying put.

“I’m not ready to go because I
feel like that’s the case with a lot of things. Black people bring culture,
community and love and so much energy and spirit and soul to whatever places we
inhabit, and then someone else comes in and totally disrupts the energy and we
leave, and they benefit from what we built,” Eunique Jones Gibson, an avid
Twitter user and CEO of the marketing company Culture Brands, told CNN.

Gibson, like numerous other
Black users, has bonded with strangers and elevated movements like “Black Lives
Matter” and “Bring Back Our Girls” while using Black Twitter – the subset of
the social media platform where Black people have conversations about
everything from culture to race to identity.

Since Elon Musk took over
Twitter in October, the future of Black Twitter has led to debate among
scholars and its users.

“We all see ourselves in this
predicament where we’re now, like, ‘Dang, we built this up and now it belongs
to someone who doesn’t share our same values,” Gibson said.

André Brock, a professor of
Black digital studies at Georgia Tech who has studied Black Twitter, said Black
users may not leave the platform, at least for some time.

But Brock said the collective
voice that represents Black Twitter will continue to be “Black as loudly and
exuberantly as possible” no matter where it lives.

Charlton Mcllwain, a professor
New York University and author of “Black Software: The Internet & Racial
Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter,” said Black Twitter does its
own thinking, and Musk won’t change it.

However, McIlwain says Musk
could alter the platform to make it difficult to find each other or amplify
other users’ tweets, or create a hostile environment.

“Amplifying the voices of
White supremacist users and transforming the platform into a haven for
anti-Black racism or racism targeting other identities could also negatively
impact Black Twitter by creating an environment that users deem simply too
hostile to be worth it,” McIllwain said.

While users are still deciding
what to do after recent changes on Twitter – like the restoration of previously
banned accounts and the upcoming roll out of a new verification system – civil
rights organizations like the NAACP have called on companies to pause all
advertising on the social media platform.

“Since Elon Musk has taken
over Twitter, racial slurs have spiked, and conspiracy theories have spread,”
the NAACP said in a statement.

Within the first 24 hours of
Musk’s ownership, there were several reports that racist comments, hate speech
and other objectionable content had increased significantly on Twitter as users
tested Musk’s promise that he would allow “free speech” on the platform.

Derrick Johnson, president of
the NAACP, and leaders of a coalition of groups aimed at stopping hate met with
Musk to express their concerns and began calling on advertisers to boycott
Twitter after Musk said former President Donald Trump’s account will be
reinstated.

Black users are creating their own apps

The changes that Musk has
pushed for or made in recent weeks have led Black users to seek other
platforms, including some that are Black-owned, or even create new ones.

The social media app Mastodon
has gained at least 230,000 users since Musk took control of Twitter, its
creator Eugen Rochko told CNN Business earlier this month.

Isaac Hayes III has been
inviting the Black Twitter community to join his social platform Fanbase, which
he created to help Black users monetize their content and grow.

 He has tweeted that Black users should not
feel like they don’t have a place to go if they want to.

For Yonathan Gebreyes, a tech
entrepreneur and Black developer, the controversy and changes at Twitter are
creating opportunities for smaller applications.

Earlier this year, Gebreyes
launched a microblogging app called Paper Africa because he believes local and
Western media outlets are not covering Africa in a timely manner.

“Users are now open to options.
The growth and adoption we’re seeing with Paper Africa is an indication of
people’s increased appetite,” Grebeyes told CNN.

Jordana Wright founded a
social media platform called The Black Twitter App in April and has seen an
increase in downloads since Musk took over Twitter.

Wright says her application
currently has 15,000 registered users.

“We do not have a Twitter-size
budget. We do not have a Twitter-size staff. Twitter has about 20 years on us,
but our day one looks pretty great” Wright told CNN.

Wright’s love for the Black
Twitter community inspired her to develop her app, even though she knows no one
can re-create it. It was a risk, she told CNN, but she wanted to create
something meaningful for her community.

“I am someone who met my best
friends through Black Twitter, got some of the biggest professional
opportunities through Black Twitter. I’ve celebrated and cried with Black
Twitter. It’s my community,” Wright said.



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