On Oct. 27, Tesla founder Elon Musk became the owner and CEO of Twitter after acquiring the social media company for $44 billion. And ever since then, there has been a question about what will happen to Black Twitter.
Torraine Walker, who hosts his own show on YouTube, recently interviewed tech entrepreneur Isaac Hayes III about ownership and Black Twitter after Musk.
According to Nielsen, in 2018, in the U.S., approximately 28 percent of Twitter’s 67 million users were Black people (double this segment’s 14 percent share of the total population), and 40 percent of African Americans are on Twitter.
Black people have informally formed Black Twitter, an Internet community largely consisting of African-American users on the social network.
“In the wake of Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, there’s a lot of discussion of the fate of the cultural powerhouse known as #BlackTwitter,” Walker wrote on YouTube. He discussed the fate of Black Twitter with Hayes in an episode of his show entitled “Exodus: Movement of Black Twitter.”
Walker is the founder and editor of Context Media Group and a writer, journalist, and social media influencer. He is the producer and director of the documentary “Five Years: Mike Brown & Ferguson Now” and the creator and host of “Wednesday Wisdom,” a news and information website.
Hayes III founded Fan Base, the subscription social media app, in 2019 after noticing a gap in the social media market for content creators. Hayes III, whose father is the late R&B icon Isaac Hayes, raised $6 million for his startup.
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Fanbase is a photo, video, live streaming, and long-form content app that lets user monetize their posts by gaining subscribers for $4.99 a month for exclusive content they create.
When asked what he thought about the current state of Twitter under Musk’s leadership, Hayes noted others are also questioning what’s going on with the platform.
“It’s kind of confusing what’s going on with Twitter, and I think Elon, I think, maybe underestimated how people respond to his demands. I don’t think he came in with leadership; I think he kind of came in with authoritarianism,” noted Hayes, mentioning the mass number of employees that have not only been fired but who have quit,
He also pointed out that users are confused about the future of Twitter.
“People that have invested a lot of years and content and energy into building profiles and all that kind of stuff is kind of hanging in the balance,” he said. “So that’s unfortunate because I mean, you know, Twitter is a very necessary function of our society.”
Turning the focus to Black Twitter, Hayes explained how Black culture is one of the engines behind the popularity of Twitter, as well as other social media platforms.
Black culture “it’s what generates the way that platforms are monetized,” he told Walker.
Using TikTok as an example, Hayes explained how while the primary content earners are white, they are recreating content originally posted by Black creators.
“TikTok still is primarily in the United States, a white app used by a lot of white people…so it is better for business for TikTok to have very, very famous white creators on their platform. The problem is how do they get famous, how do they become popular? Well, they get their content from young Black creators–the ideas, the music, the slang, the choreography.”
While Hayes doesn’t have a problem with the mimicry since TikTok is based on mimicry, his issue is Black creators miss out on the monetization of their creations.
“TikTok is designed in the way that we are supposed to mimic and copy each other…the problem is the way that the platform utilizes the invention of one creator to highlight the value of another creator to make them famous because they’re white…we have to find better ways to have an equitable kind of environment,” he said.
This inequity is visible on all platforms, Hayes said.
“We give our dances to TikTok, our clap backs to Twitter, our skits to Instagram,” he pointed out. “We give our culture to all these platforms, but we don’t own the infrastructure of the platforms.”
He went on to say that the chaos going on at Twitter is a great opportunity for Black Twitter to break out. He noted he is even considering a Twitter-like format for his own platform, Fan Base.
“This is the opportunity for us to own the infrastructure,” he said. “Black is the cool of the world, and what I mean by that is we are the apex of innovation…we innovate everything. I don’t care if it’s the cotton gin. I don’t care if it’s the traffic light. I don’t care if it’s an alarm system. I don’t care if it’s heart surgery. We innovate every single thing; we’re so Innovative that we don’t realize that we’re building actual industries from our Innovations infrastructures.”
Isaac Hayes III (L) (Photo: Courtesy Isaac Hayes III)/Torraine Walker (R) (Photo: website, https://www.torrainewalker.com)