High-profile B.C. Twitter accounts keep watchful eye on possible platform collapse

High-profile B.C. Twitter accounts keep watchful eye on possible platform collapse

Cities, Crown corporations and other crucial services that run some of the most relied-upon Twitter accounts in British Columbia say they’re monitoring the possible downfall of the popular social media platform.

A rapid succession of directives and ultimatums from Twitter’s new CEO Elon Musk has plunged the once-mighty micro-blogging site into chaos, stirring questions about how long the platform might have left.

Here in B.C., companies like BC Ferries and BC Hydro that operate Twitter accounts followed by tens of thousands of people say while they’re watching to see what happens, they’re not overly concerned.

“We are monitoring the situation,” BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said when asked about Twitter’s trajectory. “Our service notice information and current conditions information is repeated on our website. We have the ability to stand up a Travel Advisory page on our website for other important service related issues.”

She recommended that anyone looking for immediate updates on sailing delays can still go to BC Ferries’ website and sign up for service notices on any routes of interest.

“If a prolonged or permanent outage, we would shift temporarily to using a different social channel like Facebook for operational notices,” said Marshall.

BC Hydro says it has the highest number of followers of any electric utility across all social media platforms because it recognized early on that those platforms were extremely important, said spokesman Kevin Aquino.

That’s especially true on Twitter, which BC Hydro uses to pump out continual updates in the event of a massive windstorm like the one earlier this month that knocked out power to thousands of customers on Vancouver Island.

Like BC Ferries, however, Hydro isn’t sweating the drama unfolding with Twitter and is ready to push other platforms if the site does go down, including its own outage page.

“We have taken steps to ensure we communicate with our customers where they want to be communicated with – whether that’s through the website and our call centre or on social media or through traditional media,” said Aquino. “Like everyone else, we’re following the changes on Twitter, and we will be ready to provide information to our customers on the other channels as we are already doing if needed.”

DriveBC, the Ministry of Transportation-run service that provides updates on highway closures in the event of a major crash or disaster, says it would not be affected by a Twitter outage despite its 226,000 followers on the platform because its primary source of up-to-date info is on its website.

“Twitter is one of several channels the ministry uses to share information. Others include Facebook, Instagram and the ministry blog,” the ministry said in a statement. “The ministry continues to pay attention to emerging platforms that could best share DriveBC information as the social media environment changes.”

The City of Victoria says it’s also keeping an eye on the situation, but again, it posts to multiple channels and provides real-time emergency information on its Vic-Alert system.

“In the event of a gas leak or a tsunami warning or something that we want to reach the public with immediately…or the entire neighbourhood or community or the City of Victoria, we would send out a Vic Alert,” said the city’s emergency program coordinator Tanya Patterson.

Since purchasing a majority stake in Twitter, Musk has swiftly made the company his own, firing large swaths of staff and implementing a widely panned $8 verification badge program.

This week, Musk asked employees to either commit to a “hardcore work environment” or leave and receive three months of severance pay. Hundreds of employees chose to leave, joining many others who have already been laid off by the social media giant. Now there are signs that the platform is collapsing under its own weight without enough people to manage it, as reports of new problems and glitches surface daily.

READ MORE: Tweets with racial slurs soar since Musk takeover, report says

Some are preparing for the site’s downfall and even publicly tweeting out their goodbyes as they migrate to other platforms.

“It’s hard for me to imagine how an incredibly complex company that relies on the work of thousands of engineers can continue functioning in the absence of its staff,” said Rachel Hope Cleves, a professor of history at the University of Victoria. “Social media companies do rise and fall. It might seem inevitable, but it’s not.”

While some are speculating that fall could come quickly, others say it won’t be a matter of shutting down overnight. In an interview with The Associated Press, three engineers who left the company recently said they expect that more than two-thirds of the site’s 230-million users could see considerable problems with the platform.

Security experts have also warned that the employee exodus could create an opening for hackers to exploit Twitter and compromise user accounts.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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