After greater than six months of one of the crucial chaotic, high-profile enterprise negotiations in current reminiscence, it’s lastly actual: Elon Musk, the richest individual on this planet, is in control of Twitter.
Musk has reportedly fired CEO Parag Agrawal and two different high executives, CFO Ned Segal and head of authorized coverage, belief, and security Vijaya Gadde, in response to reviews from CNBC the Washington Submit, and the New York Instances. The Washington Submit and Wall Road Journal have reported that the deal closed Thursday evening, though there is no such thing as a 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 drive him to testify in courtroom and reveal extra probably embarrassing personal texts along with his pals concerning 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 might go down as one of the crucial juvenile government 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 through which he tweeted a video of himself carrying a sink into the workplace, captioned “Getting into Twitter HQ — let that sink in!” and adjusted his Twitter bio to learn “Chief Twit.”
However in the event you suppose the Musk-Twitter saga is over, you’re sorely mistaken. The true drama is but to return.
Till comparatively not too long ago, Musk’s major enterprise pursuits have been in constructing electrical vehicles, rockets, and underground tunnels. Now, he must determine a brand new, very completely different enterprise problem: the best way to successfully run a social media platform that’s utilized by practically 400 million individuals — 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 practically as a lot cash as its social media rivals like Fb and YouTube, and together with different main tech firms, it has additionally seen a serious decline in its inventory worth previously yr. In keeping with a current report in Reuters, the service’s most lively and profitable customers have been leaving in droves for the reason that pandemic.
Up to now, Musk has thrown out lots of concepts, typically within the type of tweets, about how he plans to show Twitter round. Listed here 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 needs to purchase Twitter is that he needs it to be an open digital city sq. of concepts, with out intervention. He has stated 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,” stated Musk at a Twitter worker assembly in June that Vox obtained a recording of.
But it surely’s not clear precisely how Musk plans to execute on his free speech promise, or what he even means by it.
The current proliferation of “free speech”-themed platforms like Parler, Reality Social, and Gettr have proven that in the event you let anybody say no matter they need on a social media app, there’s likelihood 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 lots 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 sort of content material is usually unhealthy for enterprise as a result of most customers — and advertisers — don’t need to be round it.
Musk is aware of this. Which is why he has stated, paradoxically, that he’ll use algorithms to advertise and downrank content material, arguing for “freedom of speech” however not “freedom of attain.”
“I feel individuals ought to be allowed to say fairly outrageous issues which are throughout the bounds of the regulation, however then that doesn’t get amplified, it doesn’t get, you realize, a ton of attain,” stated Musk on the June Twitter employees assembly.
However Musk didn’t clarify how he’ll determine what sort of content material will get attain and what received’t, and the way it will likely be any completely different from what Twitter presently 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 deal with considerations about his hands-off strategy to content material moderation by tweeting a public memo to advertisers. He wrote that Twitter “can not turned a free-for-all hellscape, the place something might be stated with no penalties!” and added that he needs Twitter to be a spot “the place you’ll be able to select your required expertise in response to 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 “widespread 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 troublesome one, and Musk has lots of particulars right here he might want to determine.
Deliver again Trump
Musk has stated he would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which was banned for his tweets concerning 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 in the end end in Donald Trump not having a voice,” Musk advised the Monetary Instances in Could. “Banning Trump from Twitter didn’t finish Trump’s voice. It should 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 common with conservatives who’ve lengthy felt censored by Twitter and different social media firms, even if there hasn’t been tangible proof of systematic anti-conservative bias and conservative influencers proceed to have huge followings on platforms like Twitter.
Whereas many conservatives would cheer Trump’s return to Twitter, it might concurrently immediate main resistance from individuals, 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.
Musk has promised to repair Twitter’s “bots” concern — which means the prevalence of accounts that publish spam or inauthentic content material like crypto get-rich-quick-schemes and phishing scams.
Bots are a serious identified concern on Twitter, though the corporate has maintained that they characterize lower than 5 p.c of all accounts. Musk has stated he thinks that quantity is way greater, round 20 p.c 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 truly be beneath 5 p.c, the attain of those bots in conversations total might be outsized, as excessive as 20 p.c.
Not like reinstating Trump, eliminating bots might be additionally one in all Elon’s least controversial plans as a result of it’s exhausting to search out individuals who love bots (or a minimum of the malicious/spammy ones).
“I imply, frankly a high precedence I might have is eliminating the spam and rip-off bots and the bot armies which are on Twitter,” Musk stated 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.”
Sarcastically, regardless that Musk stated 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 problem.
Prefer it or not, bots are actually squarely Elon’s drawback to unravel.
Make Twitter a “superapp” referred to as X
Musk had stated that he needs to meet Twitter’s potential by making it way 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 pals.
“You mainly stay on WeChat in China as a result of it’s so helpful and so useful to your every day life. And I feel if we might obtain that, and even near that with Twitter, it might be an immense success,” stated 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 all Musk’s most formidable plans and the closest factor he has to an actual enterprise technique. At present, 90 p.c of Twitter’s income is made by way of promoting. Musk stated he would need to make Twitter much less advertising-dependent and earn more money by subscriptions (which Twitter already does), and probably, earning profits by way of these superapp transactions.
Musk can have competitors: Snap’s Evan Spiegel and Uber have additionally been pursuing the superapp thought.
It may be rather a lot 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 targets, he’ll want good individuals at Twitter to assist him. With an already demoralized employees and his reported plan to chop 75 p.c of the worker base, that’s going to be tough.
In discussions with a number of present and former Twitter workers, employees described a local weather of chaos and uncertainty. Some workers circulated a petition on Tuesday protesting Musk’s plans to chop 75 p.c 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, stated that everybody they know on the firm is both “leaving or planning to go away.”
Many sources Recode spoke to discovered it implausible that Musk might successfully hold Twitter working with the sorts of drastic employees reductions he’s reportedly deliberate.
“It’s not solely operations that will likely be hit. It takes many individuals and shifting components to fulfill primary regulatory and authorized compliance in numerous components of the world. How does [Musk] plan to proceed to try this?” stated Sarah T. Roberts, a former researcher at Twitter who left the corporate not too long ago and is now a professor of knowledge 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 airplane, crouched and bracing for affect.
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 completely different from what he truly finally ends up doing. However within the subsequent few months, Twitter workers and Twitter customers ought to be ready for turbulent occasions.