Elon Musk owns Twitter. Now what?

After greater than six months of one of the chaotic, high-profile enterprise negotiations in current reminiscence, it’s lastly changing into 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, based on experiences from CNBC the Washington Submit, and the New York Occasions. 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 might drive him to testify in court docket and reveal extra probably embarrassing personal texts together with his pals in regards to the deal as a part of the authorized discovery course of.

And Twitter gained’t have to attend in limbo any longer as an orphaned tech firm pleading for somebody to take possession. It additionally gained’t must 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 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 staff, together with a stunt during 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 for those who assume the Musk-Twitter saga is over, you’re sorely mistaken. The true drama is but to come back.

Till comparatively lately, Musk’s major enterprise pursuits had been in constructing electrical vehicles, rockets, and underground tunnels. Now, he must work out a brand new, very totally different enterprise problem: methods 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 opponents like Fb and YouTube, and together with different main tech firms, it has additionally seen a significant decline in its inventory worth prior to now 12 months. In line with a current report in Reuters, the service’s most lively and profitable customers have been leaving in droves for the reason that pandemic.

To date, Musk has thrown out a number of concepts, usually within the type of tweets, about how he plans to show Twitter round. Listed here are a few 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.

Nevertheless it’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 for those who let anybody say no matter they need on a social media app, there’s a great probability that app might develop into a hate-filled, poisonous place — which is why even these comparatively extra lax platforms have some fundamental content material moderation insurance policies.

There’s a number of completely authorized stuff you possibly can say that’s disagreeable to have a look at: racial slurs, graphic violent content material, bullying, spam (extra on that later). That sort of content material is usually dangerous 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 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 might be throughout the bounds of the legislation, however then that doesn’t get amplified, it doesn’t get, you recognize, a ton of attain,” stated 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 gained’t, and the way it is going to 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 in recent times has expanded its insurance policies towards hate speech, harassment, and violent content material.

On Thursday, Musk appeared to attempt to deal with issues 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 could be stated with no penalties!” and added that he needs Twitter to be a spot “the place you possibly can select your required expertise based on your preferences, simply as you possibly can select, for instance, to see films 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 number of particulars right here he might want to work out.

Carry again Trump

Musk has stated 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 in the end lead to Donald Trump not having a voice,” Musk informed the Monetary Occasions in Could. “Banning Trump from Twitter didn’t finish Trump’s voice. It is going to amplify it among the many proper, and that’s the reason it’s morally unsuitable and flat-out silly.”

Musk’s feedback about bringing again Trump, paired together with his free speech mantra, has made him widespread with conservatives who’ve lengthy felt censored by Twitter and different social media firms, even supposing 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 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.

Do away with bots

Musk has promised to repair Musk’s “bots” situation — that means the prevalence of accounts that put up spam or inauthentic content material like crypto get-rich-quick-schemes and phishing scams.

Bots are a significant identified situation on Twitter, though the corporate has maintained that they signify lower than 5 p.c of all accounts. Musk has stated he thinks that quantity is far larger, 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 would possibly truly be beneath 5 p.c, the attain of those bots in conversations total could be outsized, as excessive as 20 p.c.

Not like reinstating Trump, eliminating bots might be additionally one among Elon’s least controversial plans as a result of it’s laborious to seek out individuals who love bots (or not less than the malicious/spammy ones).

“I imply, frankly a high precedence I’d have is eliminating the spam and rip-off bots and the bot armies which might be 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’d have 100 billion dogecoin.”

Satirically, despite the fact 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 complete extent of the difficulty.

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 satisfy 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 every part from paying their payments to ordering takeout to messaging their pals.

“You principally dwell on WeChat in China as a result of it’s so helpful and so useful to your day by day life. And I feel if we might obtain that, and even near that with Twitter, it will be an immense success,” stated Musk talking at an all-staff Q&A with Twitter staff in June that Recode obtained a recording of.

That is by far one among Musk’s most formidable plans and the closest factor he has to an actual enterprise technique. At the moment, 90 p.c of Twitter’s income is made via promoting. Musk stated he would wish to make Twitter much less advertising-dependent and make more cash by subscriptions (which Twitter already does), and probably, making a living via these superapp transactions.

Musk may have competitors: Snap’s Evan Spiegel and Uber have additionally been pursuing the superapp concept.

It is also loads tougher 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 attain any of those objectives, he’ll want good individuals at Twitter to assist him. With an already demoralized workers 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 staff, workers described a local weather of chaos and uncertainty. Some staff 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 sport performed by billionaires.”

One present worker, who requested to not be named for concern of repercussions for talking with the press, stated 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 can be hit. It takes many individuals and shifting components to satisfy fundamental regulatory and authorized compliance in varied components of the world. How does [Musk] plan to proceed to do this?” stated 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 Corbet, has been posting cartoons on his weblog that replicate the present temper at Twitter.

In a single sketch, Corbet drew passengers sitting on a Twitter-branded aircraft, crouched and bracing for influence.

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 could be very totally different from what he truly finally ends up doing. However within the subsequent few months, Twitter staff and Twitter customers ought to be ready for turbulent instances.


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