Every millionaire dreams of owning a mass communications platform at some point in their lives. That happened for Jeff Bezos in 2013 when he bought The Washington Post.
That moment arrived for Elon Musk yesterday. The board of directors of Twitter voted to accept Musk’s offer to take the firm private for $44 billion in cash after first rejecting it when he offered it 12 days ago. When the deal is completed, Twitter will become a private company completely controlled by Musk, the world’s richest man.
We don’t know how the platform will operate under Musk’s ownership or who will run it. However, we do know that Musk has chastised the company’s content restriction procedures and promised to make it into a “platform for global free speech.”
It’s not difficult to imagine Twitter unbanning former President Trump, who has been restricted from the network since the days following the Capitol brawl on Jan. 6. “I’m not going on Twitter,” Trump said when questioned about it. “I’m going to stick on TRUTH,” he continued, referring to his own social media network.
The takes are about to begin.
People, as expected, processed the news with care and moderation. The opinions are divided into three groups:
- This is beneficial to Twitter. The company hasn’t exactly been raking in the cash—it has 115 million fewer daily users than Snapchat and has only made a profit in 14 of its 33 earnings calls since going public. Its revenue of $5.1 billion in 2021 was lower than that of Lululemon.
With Twitter floundering, some tech analysts, such as Stratechery’s Ben Thompson, believe Musk—who has a track record of building extremely valuable businesses—could unlock the company’s potential by better monetizing Twitter’s important user base of tech, media, and finance professionals.
- This is awful for Twitter…and for democracy in general. According to specialists in the field of social media safety, the industry’s recent assault on disinformation is vital to maintaining democratic standards. Twitter risks becoming unusable and fueling violent activities in the real world if “rules of the road” are abolished, as Elon Musk proposes.
Critics contend that putting complete control of Twitter in the hands of one person—let alone one with a diverse set of commercial interests around the world—would be just as harmful. According to Bloomberg, Twitter said in 2020 that it would begin designating some Chinese accounts as “state-affiliated media.” However, Tesla, whose CEO is Elon Musk, is placing a large wager on the Chinese market. What would Elon do if Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded that those labels be removed?
- This isn’t going to be a big deal. People who believe “everyone is overreacting” believe Elon’s Twitter will be a succession of little changes and infinite compromises that may or may not make a difference.
More reading: 1) Everything Elon Musk has indicated he wants to alter about Twitter, and 2) a grand theory about what Elon is doing with Twitter.