Elon (eventually) buys Twitter
In a drama that has lasted longer than Ben Hur feels, Elon Musk has finally bought Twitter for $44 billion (about £8 brazillion since the mini budget). It’s been a long time since April when negotiations began, and it has been more on-again-off-again than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, but the ‘Chief Twit’, as he’s called himself, has declared that 'the bird is freed’‘.
We’re yet to see what that actually means, and what changes will come about, but presumably he’s felt that Twitter is somewhat ‘caged’.
Elon Musk buys Twitter
As a strong proponent of free speech he said in April 2022 that, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” He has also commented that Twitter has lost its way and, as part of the negotiations, repeatedly asked for data about how many ‘real’ users there were on the platform rather than bots, which Musk wants to clamp down on.
After Twitter claimed that no more than 5% of users were bots, this led to the deal beginning to fall apart, and Musk replied to this data statement on a Twitter thread with the ‘poo’ emoji. Fast forward through expensive lawyers, court documents, lots of back-and-forth, the furore began to hurt Twitter as much of its revenue comes from advertising. The talk of so many bots caused advertisers to wonder just how effective marketing campaigns were and who they were actually reaching with them.
Twitter claimed that Musk was legally obligated to buy the company after the initial negotiations, and a court date was set for 17th October, and then moved, and Musk was given until 28th October to stump up. Which he did, but it’s not clear why he changed his mind.
On his first day at the office, he fired several top execs including head honcho, Parag Agrawari. A swingeing clear out of those with influence suggests that significant changes are afoot in the future. As a free-speech enthusiast, Musk has criticised Twitter’s moderation policies in the past and has intimated that he would overturn previously enforced bans, to some people’s delight, which could see the return of Donald Trump and Kanye West (his mate) to the platform. Amid consternation that some undesirables could begin using Twitter for hate speech and it becoming a toxic echo chamber, he’s reassured those concerned that, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hell-scape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”
The bigger picture really is how much the platform will change. Any business purchase has to be an investment, but he has claimed he’s bought the platform “to try and help humanity, whom I love.” So what’s he going to do with it? Much speculation centres around ‘X, the everything app’ which may be a reference to some kind of super app that does most things that people do in everyday life, like messaging, buying and selling, takeaways, banking (he’s a fan of crypto-currency), and, obviously, social media. This is sort of on the lines of WeChat in China, and what Meta have tried to do (badly) with Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
What’s he up to?
Really, even though Elon Musk buys Twitter, no one’s the wiser about what his plans are as all we’ve heard is hints and cheeky teasers, but the changes will come for better or worse. As he’s quite a divisive character, it’ll be interesting to see how the user base alters over the coming months as moderation and feature changes happen – some have welcomed his presence, others say they will leave. With the American mid-term elections coming up as well as various general elections around the world, including Brazil, his first test will be to see if he lets controversial suspended users back, how he will reduce the bots, and how Twitter will handle the usual political misinformation posts. Time will tell, even if Elon won’t. Yet.
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