So Elon Musk finally claimed his Twitter toy.
It may have seemed impossible earlier this month as Twitter adopted a poison pill against the billionaire entrepreneur, but I always thought it was inevitable. After all, it was a fair enough price ($44 billion) that no one else, like, say, Disney, would want to match or, in the case of Big Tech, could match for fear of bringing antitrust scrutiny. more pushed.
Which brings us to the inevitable question: What now?
The honest answer when it comes to Musk – superhero to some, supervillain to others – is, “Who knows?” Editable Tweets? Very probable. Fewer spambots? Perhaps. The sleek Twitter headquarters building in San Francisco as a homeless shelter? Doubtful. The end of 4/20 weed jokes? Hard no. The man has just negotiated a complex financial transaction that began with an embedded marijuana tip.
One thing, however, seems certain to me: the future boss of social networks is inclined to lift the permanent tweeting ban imposed last year on Donald Trump.
If you’re hyperventilating right now, you might want to breathe because it came with or without Musk at the top of Twitter’s org chart. Addressing the ban would have been high on Twitter leadership’s to-do list, because preventing Trump as the 2024 GOP presidential candidate — or as president — was always going to be a problematic position. . Twitter executives would have been under enormous pressure to reconsider the ban, which made sense at the time, and would most likely have let Trump back down, with some behavioral caveats.
And so it will be Musk who will do it instead. He had already made it clear that he was in favor of the idea, long before this agreement. When Twitter finally kicked Trump off the platform following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol for inciting violence (after many years of Twitter turning the other cheek against a host of less serious), Musk challenged the decision. He was one of the few in the tech field to do so at the time, when most fled in fear of being accused of being servants of sedition.
Don’t misunderstand Trump’s value to Twitter or the former president’s reliance on the platform to reach his base. It was the central source of his repeated lies, but also a testing ground for his thinking on issues of global importance, thinking that other presidents have conducted privately. It’s hard to imagine Trumpism, as understood today, without Twitter or Twitter without Trumpism, banned or not.
Many have enjoyed Trumpy Twitter’s year-plus respite, but it’s about to return with a vengeance. And perhaps just in time for a crucial midterm election that could upend the Democrats’ grip in Washington and block any legislative action.
Maybe it won’t be a full scrum for Trump. Expect Musk to employ a vague proposition he made regarding “time outs” for those who cross the line he decides to put in place. It would certainly fit the sophomore persona Trump had cultivated on the site.
In a twist, Trump told Fox News on Monday that he would not return to Twitter, even if he was allowed to. “I’m going to stick with the truth,” he said, referring to the moribund Truth Social site he took out. It’s a sad fiddle of a site, with technologists fleeing the locals as fast as the app falls off the download charts. A company even less impressive than Trump Steaks or Trump Water, or Trump University – that really means something.
While other right-wing Twitter clones like Gettr and Parler certainly do better, a Twitter touting freedom of speech will likely bankrupt Truth Social and others.
Additionally, Musk has had plenty of success in some very tough industries — from electric cars to rockets to solar power — displaying the business acumen he’ll need to try to revamp Twitter as a private company. Along with tackling the many insufferable morons that populate the site, Musk will have to tackle a myriad of thorny issues, from the nigh-impossible task of content moderation to keeping up with the Joneses in product innovation and how to keep going. to grow and grow against the pull of the rest of the internet. Oh yeah, and did I mention how much kids love TikTok?
And then there’s a struggling company, which was the reason for Twitter’s weak stock performance since its fall 2013 IPO. active users, profits and advertising sales. ; so it will be a guessing game about his commercial successes.
Advertisers, already exhausted by controversy, won’t appreciate a more toxic Twitter, and hopes of revenue-boosting subscriptions have so far been dashed. It will be a daily struggle just to retain Twitter’s employee base after all of this. That’s why Musk — whose personal financial obligations in this deal appear to be considerable — will have to find his way to a better company, not just a better product.
That’s a lot of complexity for Musk, who still has his day jobs at Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and the Boring Company, even though he has some arguably smart ideas. My suggestion is to make a strong ally of recently deceased Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, who was sidelined by activist investors. Bringing Dorsey back always seems like a good move on Twitter. That would certainly calm the waters that Musk can’t seem to help but brew himself.
So what’s the next step? So much and of course, who knows?