News Media

Rethinking Twitter in a time of chaos


For more than two-thirds of journalists in the U.S., Twitter is their go-to social media site for work. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, journalists use Twitter more often than Facebook, and they use it more than Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.

Thanks to Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover of the popular social media site, that relationship is suddenly in jeopardy. Forget whether journalists will have to pay for their blue verified checkmarks going forward — a dramatic increase in hate speech and trolling activity threatens the more civilized corner of the platform — the valuable real estate for journalists and thought leaders.

“Twitter has long been a place that asks users to balance the benefits of the relationships they build there compared to the level of abuse and harm they experience,” Jeremy Littau, an associate professor of journalism at Lehigh University, wrote in his newsletter, The Unraveling. “Some find the tradeoff doable. Others have left. Elon might make all of this worse.”

Unfortunately, as Yoda would say, always in motion is the future. While it’s unclear what will happen to Twitter, here are some things you might consider as you scroll and engage in the months ahead.

Activate two-factor authentication

If you haven’t done so already, one of the first moves you should make is to activate two-factor authentication on your Twitter account.

What’s two-factor authentication? It’s essentially an extra layer of protection beyond just your password that prevents hackers from easily gaining access to your account. Twitter offers three secondary login methods — text message, authentication app or security key.

Twitter had a problem with its two-factor authentication recently. Text codes weren’t being delivered to users, preventing some people from logging into their accounts. Twitter downplayed the issue, saying it was just a “few cases.”

Backup your Twitter account

Considering the volatility on the platform at the moment, it might be wise to download a backup copy of your Twitter data.

In order to download your Twitter archive, you first need to complete a request process. Go to “Settings and Support” in your Twitter menu, click on “Settings and Privacy,” select “Your account,” then click or tap on “Download an archive of your data.”

After verifying your password and entering a verification code, you’ll be able to select “Request archive.” The entire process can take upwards of 24 hours or more to finish — you’ll be notified by Twitter when the archive is ready to download.

What will you get? According to Twitter, your profile information, all your tweets and direct messages, any photos or videos you’ve shared, a list of your followers and more.

Find other ways to follow sources

If you’re like me, you have carefully cultivated your Twitter account with lists of topics you cover on your daily beat, which could range from media figures to local political experts to the best foodies in your region.

But Musk’s ownership and the volatility on the platform are causing some companies and government agencies to stop sharing content on Twitter.

“Twitter is moving in a troubling direction — one that promotes hatred, violence, bullying, and false information,” San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott's office tweeted. “It is not a forum where users can feel respected or safe. We deserve better. For that reason, my office will no longer communicate using Twitter.”

Like other users and brands, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office will instead turn to Instagram to share information with residents. It might be worth checking into any local agencies you cover in your community to see if any changes are planned in their communication strategy.

Don’t get duped by fake verified accounts

Thanks to Musk’s changes to Twitter Blue, anyone with $8 and a phone number can verify an account. Not only is this a green flag for trolls to spew misinformation on the platform, but it’s also the perfect opportunity for journalists to easily get duped into sharing false content.

Before you retweet any account, check to see if they also have a gray “Official” checkmark on their account. When Twitter enabled anyone to purchase a blue verified checkmark, they added the gray checkmark to certain accounts to help combat the growing tide of impersonators on the platform. The “Official” checkmarks were removed a short time later, then added back in the middle of November. Whether Twitter keeps them is anyone's guess at this point.

Another thing you can do is go to a person’s Twitter account and click on the blue checkmark. If it is an authentic, verified account, it will say, “This account is verified because it’s notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category.”

If you click on the blue checkmark of some who purchased their Twitter account, it will say, “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue.”

Stop using Twitter D.M.s to speak with sources

Lots of journalists, including myself, end up direct messaging sources on Twitter from time to time. Regardless of the convenience, it’s time to stop.

For starters, Twitter’s direct messages aren’t end-to-end encrypted, meaning they are encrypted on your mobile device and not on the social media platform’s servers. That means someone at Twitter could dig in and read your messages if they choose — a problematic issue now that the company is owned by an unstable billionaire willing to hold a grudge against journalists.

Twitter has also had to deal with bad actors within the company. In August, a former Twitter employee was found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia by accessing the accounts of political dissidents. Another former employee charged with spying fled the country to Saudi Arabia and evaded his trial, according to Bloomberg.

In addition, even if you delete a direct message, it will still exist until the person you sent it to also deletes it on their account. And even then, there’s some question about whether the message remains accessible elsewhere if law enforcement serves a warrant for the data.

There are better, more secure tools out there to use to message sources that offer end-to-end encryption, including Signal and WhatsApp.

Rethink how you use Twitter

Musk’s takeover of Twitter and the chaos that ensued have created the perfect opportunity for journalists to look at their relationship with the social media platform and make some changes.

For starters, where's the value in publishing scoops on Twitter first before you’ve had the chance to publish them on your own publication's website? I get that there's ego involved, and reporters deserve to be recognized for their scoops, but why give them away to Twitter, which doesn’t pay you?

Often, other news outlets publish their own stories based on news that reporters broke on Twitter. This might be great for the individual brands of those reporters, but it isn’t ideal for the publications that employ them.

Even if you include a link, the traffic Twitter sends back to your website is paltry. Musk’s claim that Twitter “drives a massive number of clicks” and is the “biggest click driver on the internet by far” was fact-checked on Twitter by the crowdsources Birdwatch program, which noted, “the reverse is true.”

Take a peek at your web traffic, and you can see the truth for yourself. The reality is that a small portion of Americans (just 13% of adults, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey) get their news from Twitter, and most use it as we do — lots of scrolling, plenty of liking and very little clicking.

Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and columnist for Editor and Publisher, where he writes about trends in digital media. He is also a digital editor and writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Reach him at


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  • michelleotto

    Hi Rob Elon Musk taking over Twitter is chaotic only if your opposed to having all opinions and all the facts for that matter shared. A major digital media, Twitter, has just been caught filtering out select opinions and most important select facts that don't fit their political party's narrative-that's true chaos. It's the loss of free speech, one party rule. This lack of diversity of opinion is unfortunately, like Musk said, what you will find in most of the world today. The U.S. has always been a beacon of light because of out first amendment. Unfortunately many of these so called journalists you refer to that use Twitter are no more than people creating a preferred narrative. Phony stories disguised as facts until proven wrong sometimes years later. There used to be a TV show called Crossfire. It featured James Carvill and Tucker Carlson. From the left and from the right given equal time. That is what I believe Musk wants to see. And that is going to require cleaning house at Twitter. Getting rid of those opposed to all the facts. And making sure no one political party can go unchecked or suppress the truth. Now that's getting rid of the chaos.

    Thursday, December 8, 2022 Report this