After more than six months of one of the most chaotic and high-profile business negotiations in recent memory, it’s finally happening. Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, is in charge of his Twitter.
According to reports in the CNBC Washington Post and New York Times, Musk will join CEO Parag Agrawal and two other chief executives, CFO Ned Segal, in charge of legal, trust and safety. It reportedly dismissed a former employee, Vijaya Gadde. The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reported that the deal closed on Thursday night, though there was no official confirmation from Twitter or Musk at the time of publication.
The reported takeover forced Musk, the troll commander-in-chief, to testify in court and reveal more embarrassing personal texts about his dealings with friends as part of the legal discovery process. This means avoiding lengthy legal battles.
And Twitter no longer has to wait as an isolated tech company begging someone to take ownership. Nor do we have to deal with Musk’s public shit posts directed at the company’s management. (Musk tweeting a poop emoji at Agrawal could be credited as one of the youngest executive insults ever.) In the days leading up to the deal, Musk changed his tone to a more friendly troll. On Wednesday, he visited Twitter HQ and made the rounds with employees, including a stunt he tweeted. Video of himself I took the sink to my office and captioned it, “Entering Twitter HQ — let me sink!” Changed Twitter biography to “Chief Twit”.
But if you think the Musk and Twitter story is over, you’re very mistaken. The real drama starts now.
Until relatively recently, Musk’s main business interests were building electric vehicles, rockets and underground tunnels. Now, he effectively runs a social media platform used by nearly 400 million people, including highly influential world leaders, journalists and other celebrities, to help them stay on top of political issues. You have to understand a whole new set of business challenges how to meet them. Speech moderation issues with it. Musk also needs to come up with a better business model for the company. Twitter has never made more money than its social media competitors such as Facebook and YouTube. And like any other major technology company, its stock price has fallen significantly over the past year. A recent report from Reuters found that the service’s most active and profitable users have moved away in droves since the pandemic.
So far, Musk has pitched a lot of ideas, often in the form of tweets, about how to turn Twitter around. Here are some of the most important ones:
Make Twitter a “free speech” platform. whatever that means.
The most consistent statement Musk makes about why he wants to buy Twitter is that he wants Twitter to be an open, hands-off digital town square. He says he allows anyone to say what they want on the platform, as long as it’s legal.
“I think free speech and free communication are essential,” Musk said at a June Twitter employee meeting where Vox obtained a recording.
However, it’s not exactly clear how Musk plans to carry out his free speech promise or what that means.
With the recent proliferation of “free speech” themed platforms like Parler, Truth Social, Gettr, and others, saying what you want to say to everyone in a social media app means that the app is hateful and toxic. It turned out that it could be something. As such, even these relatively lax platforms have some basic content moderation policies.
There are a lot of perfectly legal things that I would say are uncomfortable to watch: racial slurs, violent graphic content, bullying, and spam (more on that below). This kind of content generally hurts your business because most users (and advertisers) don’t want to get near it.
Musk knows this. As such, he paradoxically states that he uses algorithms to promote content and down ranks, arguing that he supports “freedom of speech” but not “freedom of reach.”
“I think we should be allowed to say some pretty outrageous things within the law, but it won’t be amplified or reach a lot of people,” Musk said. Twitter staff meeting.
But Musk didn’t explain how it determines what kinds of content reach and don’t reach, and how that’s different from what Twitter is currently doing. It has long battled harmful content (like all other major social media platforms), including a 2020 advertiser boycott. In recent years, we’ve expanded our policies against hate speech, harassment, and violent content.
On Thursday, Musk appeared to try to address concerns about a non-intrusive approach to content moderation by tweeting: Public Note to AdvertisersHe wrote that Twitter “cannot be a free hellscape where anything you say has no consequences!” He added that he wants Twitter to be “a place where people can choose the experiences they want based on their preferences, much like watching movies or playing adult video games for all ages.” rice field.
But it’s unclear how this “choose your own adventure” strategy will work with Musk’s overarching vision of a “common digital town square,” where people discuss different beliefs in the same place. is. The balance between allowing free speech and making social media platforms a place to be is a difficult one, and Musk has many details he needs to understand here.
give me back my playing cards
Musk said he would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which was banned for tweeting about the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots.
“I think it was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and ultimately didn’t result in Donald Trump losing his voice,” Musk told the Financial Times in May. “Burning Trump from Twitter doesn’t mean that Trump’s voice has disappeared. There is a reason.
Musk’s remarks about Trump’s comeback, coupled with his free speech mantra, have been criticized by Twitter and other social media companies, despite the lack of concrete evidence of systematic anti-conservative bias. Mr. Musk’s popularity is growing among conservatives who have long felt censored. Conservative influencers continue to have massive followings on platforms like Twitter.
While many conservatives will welcome Trump’s return to Twitter, it will also provoke significant resistance from many liberals who say his tweets pose a threat to peaceful democracy. Let’s see how Elon is prepared to deal with the blow if he restores the former president.
get rid of bots
Musk has promised to fix Twitter’s “bot” problem. This means a prevalence of spam and accounts posting inauthentic content such as crypto get-rich-quick schemes and phishing scams.
Bots are a major known problem on Twitter, but the company claims they make up less than 5% of all accounts. Musk has said he believes the number is much higher, at around 20% or more, which was the legal basis for initially withdrawing the deal.
External research suggests that bots may actually have less than 5% penetration on Twitter, but the reach of these bots across conversations can be as high as 20%. There is a nature.
Unlike bringing back Trump, getting rid of the bots is probably one of Elon’s most controversial plans, as it’s hard to find people who love them (or at least malicious/spamous bots). is.
“Frankly, the number one priority is getting rid of spam, fraud bots, and the bot army on Twitter,” Musk said at a TED conference in April. “I think these effects… make the product even worse. If I had Dogecoin for every cryptocurrency scam I saw, I would have had 100 billion Dogecoin.”
Ironically, even though Musk said one of the reasons he bought Twitter was to get rid of bots, he used the bots as a reason to get out of the Twitter deal, which the company has not disclosed. claimed not to. the full extent of the problem.
Like it or not, bots are now Elon’s problem to solve.
Make Twitter a ‘super app’ called X
Musk said he wanted to realize that potential by making Twitter a “super app” rather than just a social media app. The original super app is his WeChat in China, which he uses to do everything from paying bills to ordering takeout to messaging friends.
“You basically live in China on WeChat.
It’s one of Musk’s most ambitious plans and the closest to a real business strategy. Today, 90% of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising. Musk wants Twitter to be less reliant on ads and make more money from subscriptions (which Twitter already does), potentially through transactions on these super apps. I want to raise
Musk has competitors: Snap’s Evan Spiegel and Uber are also pursuing super app ideas.
And building a true super app in the U.S. could be much more difficult than in China, where there’s less antitrust scrutiny that prevents major telecom platforms from establishing cross-industry monopolies. there is.
If Musk is to achieve any of these goals, he needs Twitter’s brightest minds to help him. That will be tough given the already demoralized staff and his reported plans to cut his 75% of the employee base.
In conversations with several current and former Twitter employees, staff described an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty. On Tuesday, some employees distributed a petition protesting Musk’s plan to cut his 75% of Twitter employees and “not be treated as mere pawns in a game played by billionaires.” did.
One current employee, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions on speaking to the press, said everyone he knew at the company “has either left or is planning to leave.”
A number of sources Recode spoke to said it was difficult to believe that Musk would be able to effectively continue to run Twitter with the kind of drastic job cuts he is reportedly planning. I judged.
“Operations aren’t the only thing that takes a hit. In different parts of the world, compliance with basic regulations and laws requires a lot of manpower and moving parts. [Musk] are you going to keep doing that? Sarah T. Roberts is a former Twitter researcher who recently retired from the company and is now Professor of Information Studies at UCLA.
Twitter engineer Manu Cornet has posted a cartoon on his blog that reflects the current Twitter mood.
In one sketch, Cornette depicted a passenger sitting on a Twitter-branded plane, crouching and preparing for impact.
If there’s one thing we know about the Elon-Twitter deal so far, it’s that what Musk says he does can be very different from what he actually does. But in the coming months, Twitter employees and Twitter users should prepare for turbulent times.