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Elon Musk says Twitter’s ideal market isn’t the US, it’s Japan

New Twitter CEO Elon Musk wants the social media platform to look for inspiration abroad.

Musk said at a town hall on Monday that Twitter should benefit from its presence in Japan as a role model, he charts his future, saying the country is an example of what Twitter should aspire to be “ideally in every country without exception”, according to The edge.

“It may seem like Twitter is US-centric, but more Japan-centric,” Musk said. would have said, adding that “there are about the same number of daily active users in Japan as in the United States, despite the fact that Japan has a third of the population of the United States.” Twitter did not respond to Fortunerequest for comment.

Twitter is the third most popular social media service in Japan, according to data compiled by Comnico, a Japanese social marketing agency. Twitter has 45 million monthly active users, behind the Line messaging app (92 million active users) and Youtube (69 million monthly active users). This puts Twitter in front Facebookwhich has 26 million monthly active users in the country.

Twitter’s reach in Japan ranks the country as the second largest market for Twitter, behind the United States. Japan’s biggest brands use the service to engage with their followers, and influencers tweet updates to their schedules and promote their content.

While other services might have more total users in the country, Twitter has “an outsized influence on Japanese culture, like in the United States,” says Jay Allen, publisher of Invisible Japan, a newsletter that follows Japanese news and social issues. “Cute viral tweets are a mainstay of morning news programs.”

Twitter has also shaped Japanese society, Allen says. “There’s this feeling that Japan doesn’t like to talk about politics,” he says, “but if you can read Japanese Twitter, you’ll realize that’s not really the case. There were a lot of conversations that ended up happening on Twitter that really moved things forward in terms of social progress, on issues like women in the workplace and sexual harassment.

Musk appears to want Twitter to replicate its privileged position in Japan in other markets like the United States, but experts warn that the changes Musk has implemented since buying Twitter could jeopardize the service’s status in the country.

Why is Twitter so important in Japan?

Jason Karlin, a professor of media studies at the University of Tokyo, explains that Twitter usage in Japan began to increase in 2011 after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and during the ensuing crisis at the power plant. Fukushima Electric. “People were using Twitter as a way to get instant information about different crises, especially because the crisis was so long and recovery efforts were taking so long,” he says. Japanese users continue to flock to Twitter for regular updates on the earthquake.

The Japanese writing system, which uses characters rather than letters, is also better suited to Twitter’s microblogging service. Characters allow Japanese netizens to cram more content into a single tweet. “We often struggle to keep our [English] translations of Japanese tweets in 280 characters! Allen said.

Japanese users are also drawn to Twitter’s acceptance of anonymity, which Karlin says has long been a part of Japanese internet culture. The country’s communications ministry in 2015 reported that 76.5% of Japanese Twitter accounts were held under pseudonyms, compared to 15% of local Facebook accounts. (A 2017 analysis of a random sample out of 100,000 Twitter accounts found that 26% of users did not use their full name, although researchers admitted that was likely an undercount.)

“Social ostracism can be quite harsh in Japan,” Allen says. “An unpopular opinion or something that goes viral could have some pretty nasty consequences in day-to-day life.” A “very strong right-wing social media presence” can engage in bullying, Karlin says, which can encourage users to be pseudonymous.

Is Twitter Chaos Harming Japan?

Other aspects of Twitter’s presence in Japan may be less appealing to the platform’s new CEO who values ​​free speech. “Presenting Japan as some sort of ideal place to consider social media seems a bit out of place,” says Karlin, noting that Japan faces the same issues with political discourse and content as other countries. He also notes that Japan has stricter rules when it comes to political speech, such as limits on when politicians can campaign and what type of campaign they can engage in.

And Musk’s early decisions as CEO, such as collective redundancies and adjustments to some of Twitter’s underlying systems, could jeopardize the platform’s presence in Japan. The country submit more requests for Twitter to remove content than any other country, according to the company’s own transparency report.

Karlin says these requests are likely handled by local Japanese-speaking staff. “If these people are cut off, there’s a danger that content moderation on Twitter will dry up,” he says, “and that’s going to be very worrying for the Japanese government.” (Japanese media reported that some Japan-based Twitter employees have been laid off, but the extent of the job cuts is unclear.)

Some Japanese users have considering moving to other Twitter-like platforms like Mixi, a locally developed social network popular in the early 2010s that faded with the rise of Twitter. However, Allen says he doesn’t see “a real major move” toward alternatives like Mastodon. Allen says Japanese Twitter users are more concerned about Twitter’s ability to make its feed work than content safety and moderation, which dominate the Musk-era debate around Twitter in the United States.

Musk himself remains a popular figure in Japan, with some Japanese Twitter users celebrating his push to end remote work on Twitter, repeating Musk’s belief that working from home is equivalent to not working at all.

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