The Twitter board has changed its mind. They have accepted the offer of 44 billion dollars. Earlier, it seemed that they would fight the acquisition tooth and nail, but the offer is too good to ignore. Elon Musk will soon have full ownership of Twitter. The big question is, what happens now?
Shortly after trading in the Twitter share halted, the press release came out that Twitter had accepted the offer from Elon Musk. Twitter will become a fully private company, with Elon Musk as the owner. According to the board, the premium that Elon Musk is paying for Twitter is so good that this is the best way forward for shareholders. Although the board initially wanted to oppose the takeover.
Musk wants freedom of speech on Twitter
The big question is, what happens next? Musk has mentioned some plans for how Twitter can become better. His main pillar is “free speech”. In his opinion, Twitter censors too much. The content moderators go too far in censoring messages. Musk indicated that he hopes his biggest critics will (continue to) use Twitter to put him under fire. There should be room on the platform for different sounds and critics.
Twitter blocked former President Trump last year. Trump’s statements were not always true, he sometimes distorted facts, and his tweets were interpreted as a call for violence. Twitter eventually decided to block Trump. It is unclear how Musk looks at this decision. He hans’t commented on this particular case.
Musk mentioned changing the moderation policy, not abolishing it. He also compared it to discussions in a town square. Therefore, we can assume that calls for violence, terrorism, threats, and the like will also be moderated under Musk.
In the United States, there is also a discussion about politics through social media. Facebook has rolled out algorithms to limit the spread of politically oriented messages and even blocked political ads. Twitter also banned political ads, and moderators keep a close eye on posts by politicians. Musk says the policy is good if the 10 percent most left-wing and 10 percent most right-wing voters are dissatisfied with Twitter’s policy. It means that a good middle ground is found, in which both voices are present on the platform.
Musk’s billionaire toy or new impulse for Twitter?
Critics fear that Twitter is becoming a billionaire’s toy. Some men buy a motorbike or a fast car when they turn 50. A billionaire buys a big yacht, the next private jet, but in Musk’s case, he buys Twitter. Musk is someone who uses Twitter all day to share his brainwaves, opinions and announcements. Now he is the social network owner, which critics say is asking for trouble.
At the moment, Musk is responsible for Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink and Starlink. A car manufacturer, a company that sends rockets into space, a tunnel drilling company, a company that makes brain implants and a company that wants to offer worldwide internet via satellites. The companies in which Musk is active are very diverse. Critics argue that he lacks the necessary online experience, but some of them forget that Musk became big with Paypal. He was one of the founders.
On the other hand, people with much online experience do not guarantee success either. At Google, there have already been several attempts to create a successful social network. With the social network Google+, Google even made it a central part of all its services. It mainly resulted in a lot of inactive profiles. Eventually, Google+ was shut down, because it simply was not successful.
Which skillset you need to make Twitter successful is therefore difficult to define. Perhaps the rather unusual way Elon Musk thinks, conducts business, and lives are the key to success. In any case, he identifies where the problems lie. Many celebrities are still only sparsely active on Twitter, which is something that should change. So Twitter might become a more appealing platform for famous people in the upcoming years. If they return, a lot of their fans will come back as well.
Changes that Musk has in mind
Musk has already sent some Tweets about what he would like to see changed on Twitter. He will propose these changes internally as soon as he becomes the owner. Then it remains to be seen whether they will all be implemented, or whether employees of Twitter will be able to convince him to choose another route. The things Musk wants to change:
- Writing long Tweets, no more limit on the number of characters. In 2017, Twitter raised the limit from 140 to 280 characters;
- Being able to edit a Tweet. Nothing is more annoying than spelling mistakes in a Tweet that you can’t edit;
- Put an end to advertisements on Twitter;
- Put an end to spambots on the platform;
- Authentication for real people on the platform so that they are easier to recognise. Whether he wants to banish anonymity with this is unclear;
- Make the algorithm open source that defines the Twitter feed. So that everyone can see it’s not biased or favourable to particular opinions. In addition, it may lead to innovation if bright minds manage to improve the algorithm;
- Freedom of speech must become a core value;
No doubt these are not all the changes. A man like Musk will not lay all his cards on the table. What is still unclear is Twitter’s revenue model if Musk would remove all advertisements. The ads currently keep the social network afloat, so something of a revenue model will have to come in return.
It will be interesting to see whether Musk can make Twitter more successful, whether it will soon be in real competition again with Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and the many other social platforms. Or whether the platform will go down as a billionaire’s toy.