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Tim Culpan

China Protests Give Musk a True Taste of Running Twitter

Fake accounts designed to shout down protesters show what it’s like managing a global social media company.

US protesters supporting those demonstrating in China.

US protesters supporting those demonstrating in China.

Photographer: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

It was bound to happen. On one side you have a big company under new management, large scale layoffs, decimation of its content-moderation team and a fresh policy on what’s allowed on the platform. On the other, a government efficient at controlling information, armed with teams of censors and platoons of bots that is intent on dominating the conversation as citizens rise up in protest. 

After Elon Musk declared the “bird is freed” and set about what he sees as a rebalancing of Twitter Inc. away from the “woke” crowd and in favor of free speech absolutists, he took his eye off the ball. Obsessed with the left-right dichotomy that has divided US politics, the world’s richest man appears to have given up on the rest of the planet. That matters as peaceful demonstrators face  harsh retaliation in China, where Twitter is nominally banned but accessed through virtual private networks.