After greater than six months of some of the chaotic, high-profile enterprise negotiations in latest reminiscence, it’s lastly changing into actual: Elon Musk, the richest particular person on this planet, is in command of Twitter.
Musk has reportedly fired CEO Parag Agrawal and two different prime executives, CFO Ned Segal and head of authorized coverage, belief, and security Vijaya Gadde, in accordance with experiences from CNBC the Washington Submit, and the New York Instances. The Washington Submit and Wall Road Journal have reported that the deal closed Thursday night time, though there isn’t any official affirmation from Twitter or Musk at time of publication.
The reported acquisition means Musk, troll commander in chief, will keep away from a prolonged authorized battle that may pressure him to testify in court docket and reveal extra probably embarrassing non-public texts along with his associates in regards to the deal as a part of the authorized discovery course of.
And Twitter received’t have to attend in limbo any longer as an orphaned tech firm pleading for somebody to take possession. It additionally received’t should take care of Musk’s public shitposting directed on the firm’s management. (Musk tweeting a poop emoji at Agrawal could go down as some of the juvenile govt insults of all time.) Within the days main as much as the deal closing, Musk modified his tone to be a extra pleasant troll — on Wednesday, he visited Twitter HQ and made the rounds with workers, together with a stunt by which he tweeted a video of himself carrying a sink into the workplace, captioned “Getting into Twitter HQ — let that sink in!” and altered his Twitter bio to learn “Chief Twit.”
However should you assume the Musk-Twitter saga is over, you’re sorely mistaken. The true drama is but to return.
Till comparatively lately, Musk’s major enterprise pursuits had been in constructing electrical automobiles, rockets, and underground tunnels. Now, he must determine a brand new, very totally different enterprise problem: find out how to successfully run a social media platform that’s utilized by almost 400 million folks — together with extremely influential world leaders, journalists, and different public figures — and take care of the political speech moderation points that include that. Musk additionally wants to determine a greater enterprise mannequin for the corporate. Twitter has by no means made almost as a lot cash as its social media rivals like Fb and YouTube, and together with different main tech corporations, it has additionally seen a significant decline in its inventory worth prior to now yr. In line with a latest report in Reuters, the service’s most energetic and profitable customers have been leaving in droves because the pandemic.
Up to now, Musk has thrown out a whole lot of concepts, typically within the type of tweets, about how he plans to show Twitter round. Listed below are a number of the most vital ones.
Make Twitter a “free speech” platform. No matter which means.
Musk’s most constant messaging about why he desires to purchase Twitter is that he desires it to be an open digital city sq. of concepts, with out intervention. He has mentioned that he’ll permit anybody to say something they need on the platform, so long as it’s authorized.
“I feel it’s important to have free speech and to have the ability to talk freely,” mentioned Musk at a Twitter worker assembly in June that Vox obtained a recording of.
Nevertheless it’s not clear precisely how Musk plans to execute on his free speech promise, or what he even means by it.
The latest proliferation of “free speech”-themed platforms like Parler, Fact Social, and Gettr have proven that should you let anybody say no matter they need on a social media app, there’s a very good probability that app might change into a hate-filled, poisonous place — which is why even these comparatively extra lax platforms have some primary content material moderation insurance policies.
There’s a whole lot of completely authorized stuff you’ll be able to say that’s disagreeable to take a look at: racial slurs, graphic violent content material, bullying, spam (extra on that later). That kind of content material is mostly unhealthy for enterprise as a result of most customers — and advertisers — don’t wish to be round it.
Musk is aware of this. Which is why he has mentioned, paradoxically, that he’ll use algorithms to advertise and downrank content material, arguing for “freedom of speech” however not “freedom of attain.”
“I feel folks needs to be allowed to say fairly outrageous issues which can be inside the bounds of the regulation, however then that doesn’t get amplified, it doesn’t get, you recognize, a ton of attain,” mentioned Musk on the June Twitter workers assembly.
However Musk didn’t clarify how he’ll resolve what sort of content material will get attain and what received’t, and the way will probably be any totally different from what Twitter at present does. Twitter has lengthy struggled with dangerous content material (as has each different main social media platform) — together with an advertiser boycott in 2020 — and lately has expanded its insurance policies towards hate speech, harassment, and violent content material.
On Thursday, Musk appeared to attempt to handle issues about his hands-off method to content material moderation by tweeting a public memo to advertisers. He wrote that Twitter “can’t grew to become a free-for-all hellscape, the place something might be mentioned with no penalties!” and added that he desires Twitter to be a spot “the place you’ll be able to select your required expertise in accordance with your preferences, simply as you’ll be able to select, for instance, to see motion pictures or play video video games starting from all ages to mature.”
It’s unclear, although, how this choose-your-own-adventure technique works with Musk’s overarching imaginative and prescient for a “frequent digital city sq.,” the place individuals are debating a variety of beliefs all in the identical place. The stability between permitting free speech and making a social media platform a welcoming place is a tricky one, and Musk has a whole lot of particulars right here he might want to determine.
Carry again Trump
Musk has mentioned he would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which was banned for his tweets in regards to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
“I feel that was a mistake as a result of it alienated a big a part of the nation and didn’t finally lead to Donald Trump not having a voice,” Musk informed the Monetary Instances in Could. “Banning Trump from Twitter didn’t finish Trump’s voice. It would amplify it among the many proper, and that’s the reason it’s morally fallacious and flat-out silly.”
Musk’s feedback about bringing again Trump, paired along with his free speech mantra, has made him fashionable with conservatives who’ve lengthy felt censored by Twitter and different social media corporations, even if there hasn’t been tangible proof of systematic anti-conservative bias and conservative influencers proceed to have large followings on platforms like Twitter.
Whereas many conservatives would cheer Trump’s return to Twitter, it will concurrently immediate main resistance from folks, a lot of them liberal, who argue that his tweets pose a risk to a peaceable democracy. We’ll see how Elon is ready to deal with that blowback if he does reinstate the previous president.
Do away with bots
Musk has promised to repair Twitter’s “bots” difficulty — which means the prevalence of accounts that submit spam or inauthentic content material like crypto get-rich-quick-schemes and phishing scams.
Bots are a significant identified difficulty on Twitter, though the corporate has maintained that they signify lower than 5 % of all accounts. Musk has mentioned he thinks that quantity is way larger, round 20 % or extra, and used that as his authorized foundation for initially backing out of the deal.
Exterior analysis has proven that whereas the prevalence of bots on Twitter may really be below 5 %, the attain of those bots in conversations total might be outsized, as excessive as 20 %.
Not like reinstating Trump, eliminating bots might be additionally one in every of Elon’s least controversial plans as a result of it’s exhausting to seek out individuals who love bots (or not less than the malicious/spammy ones).
“I imply, frankly a prime precedence I might have is eliminating the spam and rip-off bots and the bot armies which can be on Twitter,” Musk mentioned at a TED convention in April. “I feel these affect … they make the product a lot worse. If I had a dogecoin for each crypto rip-off I noticed, I might have 100 billion dogecoin.”
Satirically, despite the fact that Musk mentioned one of many causes he was shopping for Twitter was to do away with bots, he made the existence of bots the idea for his case to attempt to get out of the Twitter deal, arguing that the corporate didn’t disclose the total extent of the difficulty.
Prefer it or not, bots are actually squarely Elon’s downside to unravel.
Make Twitter a “superapp” known as X
Musk had mentioned that he desires to meet Twitter’s potential by making it far more than a social media app: turning it right into a “superapp.” The unique superapp is China’s WeChat, which individuals use to do all the things from paying their payments to ordering takeout to messaging their associates.
“You principally reside on WeChat in China as a result of it’s so helpful and so useful to your each day life. And I feel if we might obtain that, and even near that with Twitter, it will be an immense success,” mentioned Musk talking at an all-staff Q&A with Twitter workers in June that Recode obtained a recording of.
That is by far one in every of Musk’s most bold plans and the closest factor he has to an actual enterprise technique. Presently, 90 % of Twitter’s income is made by way of promoting. Musk mentioned he would wish to make Twitter much less advertising-dependent and make more cash by subscriptions (which Twitter already does), and probably, earning money by way of these superapp transactions.
Musk could have competitors: Snap’s Evan Spiegel and Uber have additionally been pursuing the superapp thought.
It may be lots more durable to construct a real superapp within the US than in China, the place there isn’t as a lot antitrust scrutiny stopping main communication platforms from establishing cross-industry monopolies.
If Musk is to realize any of those objectives, he’ll want good folks at Twitter to assist him. With an already demoralized workers and his reported plan to chop 75 % of the worker base, that’s going to be troublesome.
In discussions with a number of present and former Twitter workers, workers described a local weather of chaos and uncertainty. Some workers circulated a petition on Tuesday protesting Musk’s plans to chop 75 % of Twitter’s workforce, and “to not be handled as mere pawns in a recreation performed by billionaires.”
One present worker, who requested to not be named for worry of repercussions for talking with the press, mentioned that everybody they know on the firm is both “leaving or planning to depart.”
Many sources Recode spoke to discovered it implausible that Musk might successfully maintain Twitter operating with the sorts of drastic workers reductions he’s reportedly deliberate.
“It’s not solely operations that will probably be hit. It takes many individuals and shifting elements to satisfy primary regulatory and authorized compliance in varied elements of the world. How does [Musk] plan to proceed to do this?” mentioned Sarah T. Roberts, a former researcher at Twitter who left the corporate lately and is now a professor of data research at UCLA.
One Twitter engineer, Manu Cornet, has been posting cartoons on his weblog that replicate the present temper at Twitter.
In a single sketch, Cornet drew passengers sitting on a Twitter-branded aircraft, crouched and bracing for impression.
If there’s one factor we all know by now in following the Elon-Twitter deal, it’s that what Musk says he’ll do might be very totally different from what he really finally ends up doing. However within the subsequent few months, Twitter workers and Twitter customers needs to be ready for turbulent occasions.