switch to caption Gonzalez, Michael/Getty Images
This week, Elon Musk, a billionaire, made progress in his on-again, off-again pursuit of Twitter by agreeing to fork over the $44 billion he had initially proposed.
Gonzalez, Michael/Getty Images Elon Musk might finally acquire Twitter by the end of the month after the erratic billionaire changed his mind once more this week about paying $44 billion for the social network.
A judge gave Musk and Twitter until October 28 to finalize their agreement, put an end to their protracted legal battle, and avert a public trial on Thursday. While there is no guarantee that Musk won’t have a change of heart, what would it look like if he did take over Twitter? He has dropped some hints, but he has also raised a lot of questions.
AROUND SPEECH, ANYTHING IS PERMITTED. Musk promised to advance free expression and “fight the spam bots” when he announced his intention to purchase Twitter back in April.
In the official deal announcement he added, “Free expression is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where issues crucial to the future of humanity are debated.”
He emphasized this point both in public and in private, telling Twitter staff members at an all-staff meeting that the social media site should permit all legal speech. In a text message to investor Antonio Gracias, he said, “Free speech matters most when it’s someone you hate saying what you think is bull****.”
Musk has been outspoken in his criticism of Twitter’s policies intended to prevent harassment, hate speech, extremism, and the spread of false information about elections and public health. He claims that the company is being too restrictive in its efforts to promote what it has long referred to as “healthy conversations.”
According to text texts unsealed in court files this week, his friends and supporters encouraged that viewpoint.
Are you going to free Twitter from the crowd that enjoys censoring it? The day Musk disclosed his ownership of Twitter, podcaster Joe Rogan wrote to Musk. Musk responded, “I will offer guidance, which they may or may not want to heed.
Social network experts caution that changing Twitter to allow all legal speech will invite toxicity, including misogynist, racist, and transphobic abuse as well as misleading claims about the safety of voting and the efficacy of immunizations.
Look at other websites like Parler, Gab, and Truth Social that offer fewer speech restrictions for a “keyhole perspective of what Twitter under Musk would look like,” advised Angelo Carusone, head of the leftist nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters for America.
He stated that those websites “The ability to say and do things that are prohibited on more mainstream social media platforms is actually what draws people to them, which is the feature that is also a flaw. And from what we can tell, such places are roiling pots of abuse and false information.”
TRUMP AND OTHER PROHIBITED PERSONAGE ARE LIKELY TO RETURN. Along with easing the restrictions on content control, a Twitter run by Musk would probably also see the return of former President Donald Trump. Following the uprising at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Twitter permanently banned Trump for violating its policies against encouraging violence.
BUSINESS Musk promised to lift the prohibition in May, stating that it “was a morally poor judgment, to be clear, and dumb in the extreme.”
It’s not just Trump, though. Musk has expressed his strong opposition to the idea that, with limited exceptions, anyone should be permanently barred from Twitter.
He wrote Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal shortly after agreeing to join the board of directors, “Would be fantastic to remove permanent bans, save for spam accounts and those that clearly incite murder” (a decision he soon backtracked).
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., whose account was suspended in January for tweeting false and misleading statements about COVID-19 vaccines, as well as 2020 election skeptics like Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and Mike Lindell, who were all banned in early 2021, could all have their bans lifted as a result.
It will be a delicate game of letting right wingers back on Twitter and how to negotiate that (especially the boss himself, if you’re up for that),” the billionaire was told in a text message sent to Musk in the days after his Twitter investment became public, apparently referring to Trump.
The individual advised Musk to select “a Blake Masters type” to head enforcement since they “have a sophisticated cultural/political stance.” Trump has backed Masters, a Republican running for the Senate in Arizona, and he has repeated his baseless allegations that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him.
If Trump and others are let to reappear, it might establish a precedent for other social media platforms, such as Facebook, which is owned by Meta and is debating whether to allow the former president to reappear once its own ban on him expires in January 2023.
“Trump’s return to Twitter will make it simpler for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and “Meta president of global affairs” Nick Clegg to claim, “Well, he’s already back on Twitter.” We may as well allow him to rejoin Facebook “said Nicole Gill, executive director of the progressive advocacy organization Accountable Tech.
Musk claims that if he purchases Twitter, he will significantly alter the company’s present advertising-based revenue model. Getty Images/Justin Sullivan remove caption
switch to caption Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
Musk claims that if he purchases Twitter, he will significantly alter the company’s present advertising-based revenue model.
Getty Images/Justin Sullivan MANAGEMENT CHANGES, STAFF LEAVING Additionally, it is anticipated that Musk will make changes within Twitter. Agrawal, who took over as CEO from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey less than a year ago, will probably leave, possibly with an $42 million payout .
According to emails between Musk and Agrawal, their first tentatively amicable relationship swiftly soured after Agrawal told Musk that his critical tweets of the platform were “not helping me make Twitter better.”
What accomplished this week? After snapping at Agrawal, Musk said that he would not be joining the board and would instead make an offer to purchase Twitter.
A few weeks later, following their video meeting, Dorsey texted Musk to succinctly summarize the situation: “At least it became obvious that you cannot cooperate. That gave more details.”
It’s unknown who Musk might appoint to Twitter’s executive positions. Text messages from his connections included a former Uber executive who had earlier proposed eavesdropping on scathing journalists and investor Jason Calacanis who offered to serve as CEO, but Musk didn’t take any of the ideas seriously.
This has increased rumors that Musk, who currently leads several businesses, may take the helm.
Musk requested that an investor “bring me someone who genuinely produces excellent software.” “I will supervise the development of software.”
Whoever is in charge of day-to-day operations probably won’t have as many employees. Since the Musk drama started, hundreds of staff are said to have quit, with many at Twitter discouraged by Musk’s intentions to transform the firm.
The billionaire, who has complained that Twitter’s costs exceed its income and has suggested the firm has too many employees for its size, will probably be happy to hear that.
AN APP FOR “EVERYTHING” Costs and employee reductions are just two aspects of the puzzle. According to an investor presentation acquired by The New York Times , Musk told investors that he would quadruple Twitter’s annual income to $26.4 billion by 2028 and draw 931 million users by that time, up from 217 million at the end of 2021.
According to the presentation, Musk wants to move away from Twitter’s current economic model, which relies heavily on advertising, and instead focus on charging users membership fees, licensing user data, and developing a payments business.
Given the status of the digital advertising business and the adjustments he wants to make to content moderation, he may not have much of a choice but to look for alternative sources of income besides advertising.
According to Carusone, “advertisers want to know that their advertisements won’t run alongside extremists, that they won’t be funding or supporting the kinds of things that would turn off potential customers.”
Purchasing Twitter is a catalyst for developing X, the everything app, according to Elon Musk, who announced last week that he still wants to move forward with the transaction.
It’s unclear exactly what he meant, as it always is. But last summer, Musk suggested that the business copy WeChat, a Chinese “super-app” that mixes social media, messaging, payments, commerce, and ride-hailing in general.
In China, WeChat is practically where you live, according to Musk in June. “We’ll be a huge success if we can recreate that with Twitter,” said the team.
Although Facebook and Uber, among other American digital giants, have tried this tactic, Chinese super-apps haven’t yet gained popularity in the country.
Musk remains upbeat, though. He tweeted, “Twitter likely accelerates X by 3 to 5 years, but I could be wrong.”
Note from the editor: Facebook parent Meta pays NPR to use its content under license.