Elon Musk finally bought Twitter. Many experts argue whether there will be censorship in the social network, or, on the contrary, now there will be anarchy and chaos.
After a long and sometimes ridiculous drama, Elon Musk finally bought Twitter for $44 billion, to the delight of most of the media. “It happened!” – the media is satisfied, probably counting on a lot of topics that Musk will provide them daily for discussions and articles.
But the world is worried about how Twitter will change because we do not fully understand what Elon Musk wants, and why he spent such a huge amount for it. The opinions of many experts and journalists are divided. Some believe that the acquisition of a popular social network by a scandalous multibillionaire and philanthropist could be a threat to the world order, while others say that it is the best thing that could happen, and everyone will benefit from this deal. Let’s try to understand everything.
The richest man in the world (on paper, of course, it’s so funny to hear about the trillions of dollars that billionaires supposedly have, but in reality, they don’t) currently owns the loudest megaphone in the world. Although Twitter’s boom days are a thing of the past – from plans to reach half a billion users by 2020, only 250 million were reached, and this number continues to decrease. But it is still the fastest and loudest global communication channel.
And now Elon Musk will control it and shape the social network’s policy. This raises many questions and concerns.
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And he can be very unpredictable, I mean it. He does not have, at least officially, a strategy for the next steps. Just one phrase or tweet said or written while high on marijuana or in a burst of sudden inspiration while on the toilet, can kill or rise above the ground whole companies, projects, cryptocurrencies, and other digital goods. Sometimes it seems that tweets are written by different people who do not intersect and live in different planes of the universe.
But that’s not all. Musk is sometimes a Democrat, sometimes a Republican. His worldview changes several times a year, probably depending on which of his business projects are subsidized by public money and which are rejected. We all remember his scandalous tweets about Ukraine. Sometimes he is with Ukraine, sometimes he broadcasts Russian narratives, sometimes he refuses to continue financing Starlink, then suddenly, he says “screw it” and provides it for free.
Musk also likes to talk about what a big defender of free speech he is. “The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” he said shortly after the news broke of the Twitter acquisition.
Among the many loud statements of Elon Musk, one can trace the general direction in which his favorite (or better call it “his own”) social network will move.
First of all, Musk wants absolute freedom of speech, the removal of the possibility of a permanent ban, and to restore those who have been permanently removed from the platform (As of now, Musk has already reinstated former US president Donald Trump). And this, unfortunately, means that we are in for the return of pro-Russian bots and Russian narratives. While talks about “freedom of speech” are admirable, in the version proposed by the new owner, it means freedom to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incitement like Donald Trump. The former US president was the biggest troublemaker on social media for years, eventually leading to a botched coup that saw him banned from all major platforms. Under Musk’s new rules, Trump can return to the platform and continue to spread his thoughts and his vision of the world order (despite being reinstated on Twitter, the former president said he is devoted to his own Truth Social and doesn’t plan to get back on Twitter).
Fortunately, the future of Twitter still depends not only on shareholders, but also on advertisers, and they are clearly against the return of Trump. According to The Wall Street Journal, several major advertisers have openly announced that Donald Trump’s return to the platform would be a “red line” — more than a dozen GroupM clients have ordered the agency to cease operations on Twitter if the former president’s account is unblocked. We are yet to see whether they will adhere to their decision, as Trump is reinstated.
Elon Musk’s ambitions are also going to be cooled by European Commissioner Thierry Brenton, who has already made it clear to the billionaire that in the European Union Twitter will work according to generally accepted rules, and not according to the whims of one person.
The new owner of Twitter believes that fears that Twitter under his rule and with his vision of “freedom of speech” will become an even more toxic cesspool than today are unfounded. That’s why he announced that algorithms will actively limit the reach of hateful comments to offer “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.” However, the experience of Twitter and other social networks teaches that this is a solution that has no chance of working in the long term. When you allow people to spread hate and misinformation, there will always be people who will start repeating that content, whether the algorithm promotes it or not. It was enough to see what Donald Trump’s tweets did to people.
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This suggests that Musk will open Twitter to the biggest extremes of worldview – all kinds of crazy people who will be the first to call for physical violence. We fully understand that extreme content spreads like a plague on social networks. The voices of madmen, unfortunately, are louder than those of moderate, logically thinking people. Twitter can already be a toxic place, and we have to make an effort to filter this toxic content from our page. And this is disturbing.
We know from the past that Twitter is a tool that can lead to social upheavals. Not very stable democracies of Latin America or Africa are especially prone to this. In addition, even the largest democracy in the world, the American one, came under the onslaught of Trump-inspired attackers on the Washington Capitol at one time. The main means of coordinating their activities were social networks, including Twitter. It’s scary to think what might happen when Musk implements his specific understanding of “freedom of speech.”
Either way, we’ll see just how committed Musk is to his now-vocally-articulated libertarian views when China takes a closer look into Twitter. It is in China Tesla earns the most, it is also where it has its factories. So what about criticizing China on Twitter? Beijing will quickly tighten the screws on the Tesla factories, officially, probably for other reasons, and between the lines, it will be, “Mr. Musk, do something with info spreading on Twitter about the China-Taiwan issue.” Will Elon remain true to his approach to freedom of speech?
Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion not with his own money (because he simply did not have it), but with large loans from Wall Street banks and investments from private entrepreneurs.
One name probably surprised everyone – Al Waleed bin Talal. He is a Saudi billionaire closely related to the sheiks who rule Saudi Arabia (he is the grandson of the first king of Saudi Arabia). Mr. bin Talal bought a stake in Twitter for $1.9 billion, making him the second-largest shareholder after Musk.
If “Saudi investor” doesn’t sound too threatening to you, it’s worth adding that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund added $375 million in exchange for shares in Musk’s parent company.
Twitter has never been a profitable company. Indeed, the debts amount to 13 billion dollars. And every year Musk has to spend 1 billion dollars servicing the debt. Of course, Musk won’t quickly cure Twitter financially, even if he makes us pay $20 a month to have a verified account. Well, now there are Arab sheiks close to Musk with unlimited financial resources.
Thus, a very dangerous region, which is too far from the standards of the Western world, is digging its claws into the biggest global megaphone, which is ruled by Elon Musk, and which is very shaky in its views. Sounds dangerous.
We live in a world of personality worship. Charismatic political and business leaders can rule the souls of hundreds of millions of people. From the experience of recent years, it is clear that they like to use social networks for their own purposes because a short message, order, or directive can be read in an instant all over the world.
Handing over the reins of Twitter to Musk – a very unpredictable person, behind whom in this case is Eastern money – is a ticking time bomb.
But there are many experts who hold a different opinion and consider the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk an “improvement”, even the best thing that could happen to this social network. Although they immediately warn those who think that there will be praise for the fight against alleged censorship and hope for the introduction of real freedom of speech. No, no, quite the opposite. This whole deal is the best thing that could have happened, but not for Musk. Not even for Twitter. For the world. I somewhat agree with them and I will explain why below.
The more days pass since the deal between Twitter and Musk was approved, the more I believe that the sun may rise after this ominous storm. Previously, Musk’s sins were tolerated. After all, he opened the world of electric cars to us, and he has his own, unlike anything else, fascinating vision of conquering space. A true visionary. Yes, you can close your eyes to the fact that he is sometimes unpredictable, or that he treats employees badly. We can even wave our hand at the fact that his contacts with Russia or China look more than alarming. After all, he is a businessman, he has to deal with even those whom we do not support. The same applies to Starlink financing for Ukraine. It is necessary to understand that this is a business, it is about making money. Nobody does anything for free. It is clear that without Starlink, our armed forces would not have achieved such successes, for example, in the Kharkiv direction in September of this year. I watched the reaction of our officials and the media community to Elon Musk’s statements. Some carefully explained that he had the right to do so, others, on the contrary, made him an enemy, a sold-out. But this is just a business where everyone knows how to count money. This is what projects like Starlink are created for. But let’s get back to Twitter.
However, when Musk takes over a large, powerful social network and shapes its vision and influence on users, things begin to look different. When discussing the real impact of Twitter, it is impossible to ignore such events as the Maidan, the Arab Spring, the US elections, Brexit, and the activities of Russian trolls. The common denominator is Twitter. The problem is that, like other products of large corporations, it was devoid of control.
And now Musk just walks in and says, okay, we’re having fun my way, we need more arbitrariness. Also of concern is the fact that the deal could have given access to user data to investors from China or Saudi Arabia. Journalists remind us that Twitter is used by some organizations that want the independence of Taiwan. And the number of such pain points will probably only increase.
Voices of indignation, resistance, and slogans “something must be done about it” give me hope that the days when one person, owner or CEO, decides the fate of an entire social network are coming to an end. Very often, large technology companies also “pour dirt” not even into the river, but into the well from which we all drink. It is enough to mention the same Facebook, which methodically blocks pro-Ukrainian posts, prohibiting insulting and humiliating Russians. Yes, someone will say that any CEO can be removed, fired, or replaced. This is where Microsoft came up with Ballmer when users wanted him to be replaced and the company managed to do so. But in the case of Elon Musk, more and more people are noticing that things have gone too far. He decides everything himself, takes responsibility, and takes unpopular steps.
So we needed Musk to wake up. I know it sounds strange, but without suspecting anything, Musk with his pride, self-confidence, faith in his own capabilities, and infallibility, can make the world understand that betting on such idol managers is a dead end for modern society.
But the threats are there, and the events of the last few days have proven it, so it’s time to summarize my analysis.
Let’s follow what happened in the first few days of Twitter takeover:
And all this not in a month, not in a quarter, but in just 4 days. The question from the title of this chapter becomes real: Will Twitter survive Elon Musk? And I’m not asking about the long term.
Let me remind you: Twitter is not, and never was a profitable company. We have already talked about debts of $13 billion. Everyone knew about it, and that’s why they wondered why Elon Musk needed it. But he already loudly complains about the departure of advertisers, and this is the only form of income for the service so far. So at the expense of what will Twitter exist in the near future? This question remains rhetorical, and we will receive an answer to it in the near future.
There is another interesting side to this deal. Musk spent $44 billion on Twitter. The fact that he also attracted considerable money from the sheiks for this caused the indignation of the West (which was noted by some American politicians who are calling for the cancellation of the sale of Twitter to Musk). And so far it looks not only as a corporate image disaster but also as an indicator of imminent financial problems.
Let’s put aside for a moment the grandiose plans of Elon Musk, which are unlikely to come true soon. How can Twitter really change?
We can certainly predict that it will have more ads and that the Twitter Blue subscription will expand rapidly. After all, Elon Musk bought Twitter, not because he had such a whim (well, in any case, not only because of it), but first of all to make money on the site and control the flow of information. So you can expect new ways of earning from the service. I also predict that Musk will expand his methods of engaging journalists and politicians, who are two of the most active social groups on Twitter. This goes hand in hand with the desire to control the flow of information, and it will also allow filling the social network with content, which will increase the time that users spend on it. And this, in turn, will increase advertising revenue.
As expected, the formalization of the takeover of the service caused a wave of posts on Twitter with the “I’m leaving” tagline, it’s surprising that #Twitterisoverparty is not yet trending. The point, however, is that Twitter has no viable alternative today, at least not one that isn’t aimed at extremists, far-right, and crazies like Parler, Albicla, or Truth Social.
So there is nowhere to run, but it is clear that an alternative to Elon Musk’s service is very necessary. Twitter is not the largest social network in the world, but it is undoubtedly a service with a huge power of social influence, exactly because prominent people from the world of politics, business, or journalism express themselves there. Even in Ukraine, where relatively few people are registered on Twitter, politicians’ tweets are read by everyone, because they are shared in other mass media and even on television. If Elon Musk continues in the direction he has announced in recent months, this socially important network will turn into an unstoppable, toxic “sewer” and a haven for Russian propaganda. And since we have no alternative, we can only hope that Musk will bow to the pressure of advertisers and the European Commission, and still not turn Twitter into an even worse hell than it is now.
So I want to sincerely thank Elon Musk because by destroying Twitter, he will prove to everyone the correctness of the biblical truth – do not create an idol for yourself!