After eight people were killed in a mass shooting in Texas over the weekend, Twitter users reported being inundated with graphic photos and videos of the aftermath, as Twitter Blue subscribers repeatedly shared graphic footage. These user complaints contradict CEO Elon Musk’s repeated claims that he will “optimize unregretted user-minutes” on the platform.
Musk has said multiple times that Twitter will “strive to optimize” or “maximize” what he calls “unregretted user-minutes,” even claiming “unregretted user-minutes is the metric that matters most.” (It is not entirely clear how Musk is measuring this metric or even what it means exactly.)
On May 6, a gunman opened fire at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, killing at least eight people. The next day, Musk shared a poll asking users whether the platform was doing “better,” “same,” or “worse,” in making users’ Twitter feed “as compelling as possible (maximize unregretted user minutes).” (Musk has a history of citing unscientific Twitter polls which have been targeted by far-right figures, including QAnon supporters and users of far-right message boards.)
Twitter’s new policy allowing subscribers to pay for verification through Twitter Blue and ending legacy verification has seemingly contributed to the spread of the graphic content. In December, the subscription service’s official Twitter account claimed that “soon, subscribers with the blue checkmark will get priority ranking in search, mentions, and replies.” Though it is unclear whether the platform has officially made this change, Twitter Blue subscribers with blue checks have repeatedly shared graphic police camera footage and the content has plagued other users’ feeds.
The flood of violent and graphic imagery on the platform following the Texas shooting while its CEO claims to prioritize “unregretted user-minutes” is yet another example of how Musk has transformed Twitter into a chaotic platform that favors dangerous and extreme content over users’ safety.