Communicating With Elon Musk’s X Is Like Traversing a Scorched Hellscape

Its algorithm booted me with little explanation. Maybe that’s for the best.

Collage of a relatively pleased Elon Musk in black and white against a 16-bit image of a red, orange and white explosion.

Mother Jones illustration; Sebastian Gollnow/DPA/ZUMA

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Despite Elon Musk’s enshittification of Twitter, to borrow a term from the novelist and culture critic Cory Doctorow, his rebranded social media platform is still useful to journalists like me to communicate with certain people and to promote good stories, even if its algorithm now seems to further reward clickbait, disinformation, and right-wing trolls.

But Musk has transformed the company’s comms apparatus into a scorched hellscape governed by mindless, nonhuman decision-making—which is ironic given the antipathy Musk has expressed about bots on his platform. I experienced the rot myself recently, after X locked up my account for “unusual behavior” that supposedly violated its rules. That was all the explanation I got.

Hours before, interestingly, I’d quote-tweeted a post from Musk wherein he mocked the notion of Americans living on land stolen from Indigenous people. At best, it was a really dumb joke, not the sort of thing most people would want to share with 180 million people—which is how many followers Musk has.

My commentary was as follows…

Did Musk have my account suspended for this? I doubt it—although I have written articles for Mother Jones examining his business antics, philanthropic shortcuts, and absurd wealth—oddly, my book on that subject barely mentions Musk, so maybe he felt left out. But honestly, I don’t think I’m even on his radar.

I had, the week before, used X to circulate an excerpt by author Annie Jacobsen, whose latest, terrifying book details what a nuclear war might look like. I tracked down X accounts for several dozen big players in military policy and nonproliferation and posted the article to their attention, with roughly identical messages encouraging them to read and share it if desired. X’s algo may have flagged this as unusual activity.

Which I guess is understandable. The problem is, I couldn’t then unlock my account. Logging out and back in and verifying my identity as X instructed took me to a blank page with two options: Log Out and Help. The Help option directed me to a customer support page with the same instructions on how to reinstate an account—which don’t work. Messages left via X’s customer support portal resulted in auto-responses with the same nonviable instructions. No humans in the house. For users with access problems, X customer support may as well be Tartarus.

I figured, well, I’m a journalist, and social media is part of my job, so I’ll reach out to X’s comms team—except there doesn’t seem to be one. Musk gutted it when he bought Twitter. It’s all him these days. In March 2023, X formalized Musk’s disdain for the media and highlighted his juvenile sensibilities by auto-responding to press inquiries with the poop emoji.

Musk also regularly, and gleefully, re-posts charts—I can’t vouch for their accuracy—related to the decline of mainstream media outlets.

When I emailed Musk’s nonexistent comms team this week to ask about my suspension and the apparent decimation of human customer support, I got, not a poop emoji, but an auto-reply: “Busy now, please check back later.” Which roughly translates to “piss off.”

Finally, on Thursday, deep down in Musk’s stream, I spotted the following. 

So a megabillionaire who runs multiple companies is doing customer service himself—if you happen to stumble across the right post? This is a communications platform? I’m not the first to say this, but it is not hard to understand why Musk’s advertisers and hosts of former Twitter users have fled for the exits.

Looks like I’ll be seeing more of you on Threads and such. (I’m at @michaelamechanic—“a” for Alexander.) I’ll leave the rest of y’all to enjoy the braggadocious billionaire’s black hole.

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LESS DREADING, MORE DOING

This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

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