Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in October, some of its most active and popular users say they’ve witnessed turmoil as a result of the changes introduced by the new CEO.
Six Twitter users, with followers ranging from 100,000 to several million, said they were experiencing a new kind of technical outage after Musk fired about half of the company’s employees. Other problems they identified following Musk’s controversial actions included a noticeable increase in anti-transgender rhetoric and a sporadic loss of followers.
For users with a large following, Twitter has been a place to connect with professionals in their chosen fields, build successful businesses, and share the latest news. Under Musk’s leadership, many of them have been disillusioned.
Jenn Takahashi created and runs the viral account Best of Nextdoor, known for posting funny submissions from the neighborhood watch app. In October, the account said it had 550,000 Twitter followers. After Musk’s acquisition and subsequent policy change and firing, the account lost more than 13,000 followers — an unusual drop for an account that normally grows steadily. Musk has stated that he wants to “defeat the bots” on the platform, which could explain the loss of followers, but Takahashi suspects that thousands of people deactivated their accounts after the stormy takeover.
“As soon as Elon walked into Twitter HQ with that sink, I think I lost 400 followers in an hour,” Takahashi said. Musk’s ornate entrance to the company. Similarly, after Musk suspended journalists and reinstated Donald Trump’s account, Takahashi said he “saw users leave in droves.” Data provided by analytics firm Sensor Tower showed that app installs rose 16% in Musk’s first month from the previous month, but fell 3% year-over-year.
Matt Nelson, who runs We Rate Dogs, a Twitter account with 9.3 million followers, said he noticed a drop in followers after a poll on whether Musk should step down as CEO (polls favored him leaving the role) and Musk. Twitter announced that it would no longer be allowed to link to competing social media platforms (it reversed the decision). We Rate Dogs has lost more than 10,000 followers in the weeks since Musk took office, according to Social Blade, an analytics firm that tracks followers on social media platforms. According to Social Blade, it was the first time the account lost a significant number of followers in 2022.
In terms of technical glitches, Takahashi and Nelson said their accounts often show an “Official Limit Exceeded” error message when they try to update their notifications, something they didn’t see before Musk’s tenure. The error message only affected accounts with high followers.
Both of them also said that the verified notifications tab now shows notifications from both old verified accounts (accounts that were verified before Musk took over when verification was defined by Twitter) and paid blue ticks (a feature introduced by Musk for a monthly subscription fee). became less useful under the pay-to-play system.
“An account of our size, we check every note, but we have to prioritize people who have a little bit of a following, where there might be a mutual fan base,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he communicated with Twitter staff before Musk arrived and reached out to top creators to share new features and get ideas. The teams working with creators and advertisers lost staff and leadership after Musk took over, and Nelson said he hasn’t spoken to anyone on Twitter since.
Even conservative influencers with whom Musk communicates have complained about the platform he runs — catturd2, a right-wing account with 1.2 million followers, tweeted on Tuesday that Twitter was “putting conservatives through hell again.” The account did not respond to a request for comment.
Prominent Twitter users said they’ve also noticed a decline in the quality of discourse on the platform, including more hateful messages in direct messages and replies.
Clara Sorrenti, also known as “Keffals,” said she’s seen more slow suspensions of accounts that respond to her with transphobic rhetoric. Sorrenti, who is transgender and has 150,000 followers on Twitter, said users who misgendered her or used her dead name (her pre-transition name) were being suspended for violating Twitter’s hate speech policy. According to Sorrenti, in the past month, he has seen these accounts become less disciplined.
“Transphobia is getting worse on the platform,” Sorrenti said, adding that Musk himself has tweeted that people shouldn’t be forced to use preferred pronouns and has reached out to “TikTok Libs” and other anti-LGBTQ figures. Musk has used his Twitter account, which has 124 million followers, both to share his views and to dictate new Twitter policy, such as when he tweeted that sharing a user’s real-time location would be considered “doxxing” and would no longer be allowed.
“It’s very confusing to me what his personal opinion and Twitter policy is because he’s announcing everything through his personal account,” Sorrenti said.
Queer Twitter personalities said harassment based on gender, sexuality and race had been going on since before Musk became CEO, but they noted that his apparent comfort with conservative influencers was accompanied by a flood of bigoted responses and direct messages.
After Mask’s purchase, Takahashi started a new account called “Best of Dying Twitter”, which gained 65,000 followers in two months. It catalogs tweets from and about Musk, including Twitter employee layoffs, suspended accounts Musk has reinstated, and Musk’s Twitter highlights.
Takahashi said people on Twitter wanted to watch the show unfold under Musk’s leadership. But his filings in the past two months have also led to increased harassment, he said.
Takahashi shared a screenshot of a direct message request linking him and other accounts criticizing Musk for pedophilia. Twitter, along with other social media platforms such as Reddit, has seen a months-long surge in rhetoric falsely associating the LGBTQ community with pedophilia and child “grooming.”
“I’ve never had so many trolls in my replies and messages,” Takahashi said. “I’ve been called things I’ve never been called in my life.”
Twitter is just one of the platforms used by some highly followed users like Nelson and Sorrenti. Sorrenti said she tends to tweet, reply to her friends, and then log out immediately because the platform isn’t fun for her to operate right now. He continues to use it because it helps drive people to his Twitch account.
The We Rate Dogs brand has posted on other platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, and while Nelson says the Twitter meme format works best with his content, he believes adaptation to other social media sites is possible. He started a TikTok video series of the top five dogs of the week, which resulted in an increase in TikTok followers.
“I think we’re ingrained enough in internet culture that when people see us somewhere else, they’re willing to follow and engage,” Nelson said. “Our eggs are not only on Twitter, but in several baskets. But this is where it works best and we have to adapt.”