Twitter unleashes harmful new payment feature

Twitter’s new “Super Follows” feature represents grave threat to internet freedom


Connor McNeely, Opinion Editor

At one point in our lives, we have all taken something for granted. Maybe you never thanked that high school teacher who inspired you to pursue your current major or dream career. Perhaps you had a friend that you never truly appreciated until they left. It could even be true that you never thanked your grandmother after she spoiled you for so many years. If you’re a normal person, some of these cases if not all of them might apply to you. However, if you’re someone like me — they’re all true in a more technical sense. The tricky thing is, none of these examples are relevant to me anymore. Instead, their sentiments have been combined into a single, all-powerful, despotic entity more cunning than Machiavelli, funnier than 2000s-era Will Ferrell and, at times, more saint-like than Mother Teresa.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s a bold trio — probably the boldest assemblage of virtue to ever grace the pages of the Old Gold & Black. Questions ought to be running through your head. Questions like: who or what could supplant such auspicious characters? How could something with so much to offer be available to you, of all people? The answer, my friends, is quite clear and not at all unexpected: Twitter, the platinum plateau of social media — co-created by one of the lost dwarves of Erebor — is that chief achievement of all virtual society and the vast treasury of knowledge, humor and wisdom that so many of us take for granted.

Something like 75% of all online humor is supplied by Twitter and the wonderful miscreants that frolick through its blogging chains. People are continually inspired by the things that they see on the app. Movie ideas, illustrations, financial advice — you name it. Twitter has both the potential to brighten your life and to darken it, depending on where you choose to go and what you are searching for.

Now, for common users, there are regular people who have been elevated as famous citizens of Twitter. Their backbone is mostly humor. Accounts like @abbygov, @CaucausianJames and @bocxtop are just a few examples of Twitter creators that have capitalized on large online followings. And even then, I’m selling Twitter short. The fact is that I’m a Twitter greenhorn. I’ve just recently stumbled upon the app’s colossal upside. So many ordinary kids, working adults, and retired people have been given a virtual megaphone with which they can dispense quality content — content with which established media companies must compete.

Some of this change is remarkably beneficial. Underneath anyone’s surface-level understanding of Twitter, there are entire communities teeming with positive personal connection and representation. There’s a Black Twitter, a journalism Twitter, a k-pop Twitter, a feminist Twitter among many more. The list is getting longer by the day. These communities are places where individuals craft their own identities, make meaningful relationships and solve significant life obstacles with literal miracles. Those in a life-threatening pinch for money go to Twitter, among other apps. They go to the community that isn’t there for them in-person. I can’t tell you how many times within my short stay on Twitter that I’ve seen a user’s life completely turned around as a result of one viral tweet and thousands of donations.

Yet, herein lies the problem (and the only purpose for me writing anything about Twitter as a complete entity). Like every other rewarding aspect of society, we’ve got to introduce a little bit of capitalism into the equation at some point. Free resources and communication are a no-no, especially when they grant anyone access to privileged information. For a recent example, take Reddit’s WallStreetBets, a forum where average people joined forces to pull off a massive short-squeeze which caused $70 billion in losses for the short positions of U.S. firms.

Twitter has recently announced the “Super Follows” payment feature. You remember all those tweets asking how Twitter was free? Here’s the answer. In the near future, you’re probably going to have to pay $4.99 or more to look at certain tweets or fleets, depending on how much the Twitter user charges for a subscription. It’s a slam-dunk, Trojan-horse business proposal for the Twitter execs and their fearless long-bearded leader. On the one hand, everyone’s going to want those small-time Twitter creators to finally get their due in the form of paid subscriptions, but on the other hand, there’s going to be a price wall for necessary news information and anything else that might’ve been advantageous in the past.

The goal of corporations has always been to increase total revenue in the most efficient way possible, not to cater to the rights and liberties of the people who depend upon them. If you care about the internet and the freedom that it provides, you’ll stand up and protest this new feature.