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Elon Musk Would possibly Be Simply What Twitter Wants

To be sincere, I nonetheless can’t imagine this occurred. Earlier right this moment, Twitter accepted Elon Musk’s supply of $44 billion to purchase the corporate and take it personal. In one of many largest and weirdest tech acquisitions in current reminiscence, Musk fought off preliminary opposition and a poison-pill risk to purchase the social-media service.

Information of the deal has polarized Twitter customers and staff. How will Musk rework the social community whereas remaining chief govt of Tesla and SpaceX? Will his guarantees to guard free speech additionally improve misinformation and abuse on the platform? And, um, is Donald Trump coming again?

Listed below are some completely unstructured solutions to these questions, whose randomness I hope adequately captures the bafflement I nonetheless really feel about this information.

1. No one is aware of Musk’s true motivation.

Within the greatest image, what occurred is {that a} car-and-rockets govt who made his title in digital funds purchased an internet site the place individuals scream at each other in regards to the information. Anyone who’s extraordinarily assured about precisely how that is going to work out doesn’t know what they’re speaking about.

Musk is a superb govt. One in every of his firms technologically outpaced NASA on the similar time that his different mission grew to become essentially the most useful automobile firm on the planet. However fixing Twitter—unlocking the worth of its content material, opening the free-speech spigot, clamping down on abuse, all whereas making heavy customers on each the far left and the far proper concurrently joyful—is a totally completely different problem. A tough-tech CEO selecting to put in himself as head of a chaotic social-media scrum is just like the world’s most proficient lion tamer paying to lock himself inside a shark tank with an excellent white. Why would anybody do that to themselves? Wait, no, perhaps he’s truly obtained this? Or perhaps the shark eats him instantly? The whole lot is in play right here.

2. Let’s be sincere: Musk shopping for Twitter may be good for Twitter.

Inside Media Twitter, there may be little social punishment for being relentlessly unfavorable about every little thing. (Once you’re paid to comply with a information cycle that ping-pongs amongst authoritarianism, pandemic, and struggle, “relentless negativity” comes reasonably naturally from merely paying consideration.) However this glum bias can prejudice journalists towards seeing how, generally, not every little thing seems maximally unhealthy. So, whereas my whole Twitter timeline is stuffed with individuals predicting calamity and threatening to go away the service in protest, I need to spend a little bit of time outlining why I believe Musk shopping for Twitter may truly be good.

Twitter is without doubt one of the most essential merchandise within the area of knowledge. Within the information discourse, Twitter may be very usually the straw that stirs the drink. However it’s a horrible enterprise, which has misplaced $861 million as a public agency and reported a revenue in lower than half of its earnings calls since going public in 2013. It’s additionally bafflingly turgid at innovation. The direct-message performance has up to date sluggishly. The Trending Matters part is the strangest piece of actual property on the web, the place pile-ons jockey for area with bizarrely insistent makes an attempt to get me to be taught extra about Zendaya’s red-carpet look.

Why is it such a nasty enterprise? I’m undecided, precisely. However take into account the truth that, on the board-of-directors stage, Twitter is principally run by a bunch of people that by no means use Twitter. If I informed you {that a} restaurant was run by cooks who by no means style the meals, you would possibly say one thing like “It sounds just like the meals might need a whole lot of issues,” or “I’ll guess the diners continually complain about it,” or “I think that repeated requests to alter the menu are met with relative indifference,” and guess what, all of that is kind of true with Twitter.

I don’t need to recommend that zero Twitter engineers and product managers are on Twitter. Many are, and I do know a few of them personally, and so they’re improbable. My level is that company management issues, and it is perhaps good to have any person who cares lovingly for Twitter to be answerable for Twitter—if for no different motive than to do one thing about that infernal Trending Matters field. Musk’s love of Twitter is past doubt. His capability to transmute that love into nifty app updates for energy customers is much less sure.

3. The political results of Musk taking up Twitter are going to be actually fascinating.

When Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump in January 2021, it was unprecedented. Listed below are some massive questions on Trump and a Musk-controlled Twitter:

What if Donald Trump is allowed again on Twitter? Does that give him a bonus in 2024, by having the ability to purchase extra shares of our consideration? Or does Trump’s presence make his awfulness extra outstanding within the minds of moderates, pushing extra individuals away from the Republican Get together?

And what if Donald Trump is invited again to Twitter however refuses to return? Does that make Musk and Trump enemies? What if conservatives returning to Twitter implode the worth of Trump’s media SPAC? Does a Musk-Trump rivalry instantly code the anti-woke Musk as a liberal? If Trump sees Musk’s Twitter as a risk to his SPAC, will he lead conservatives towards Musk’s whole company portfolio? Would that cut back demand for electrical automobiles amongst conservatives?

You get the purpose. To run a social-media firm in 2022 is to ask metric tons of scorn to be heaped upon you each minute of your waking life. Musk could have invited an inconvenient quantity of political scrutiny, for a man who has labored, and continues to work with, the federal authorities.

4. After which there’s the abuse subject.

My optimistic outlook for Twitter principally comes right down to this. Twitter might be loads higher: There’s extra low-hanging fruit than you assume. And Elon Musk truly makes use of and likes Twitter, which makes him candidate to repair these issues.

My pessimistic outlook for Twitter principally comes right down to this: I’m undecided what Musk’s plans for “light-touch content material moderation” will seem like. However operating a social-media web site seems to be one thing like tending to a backyard, besides the backyard is the dimensions of Australia, and there are alien weeds that develop one foot per second all over the place you look.

I don’t know what Musk will do to alter the norms round extremist speech and abuse. However I do assume that extremism and abuse will develop into much more salient beneath Musk’s management, given his popularity. Consequently, whether or not Twitter truly cuts down on abuse, I believe we’ll within the subsequent few months hear extra in regards to the abuse that’s all the time been there. Put in a different way: A number of individuals actually hate Elon Musk, and so they’re going to be vocally essential of simply how terrible Twitter is changing into—or all the time was.

5. People are unimaginable.

Elon Musk has proved himself to be a rare entrepreneur and businessman within the domains of digital funds, electrical automobiles, and area flight. However social media is basically, actually completely different from these issues. With PayPal, the product is cash. With Tesla, the product is vehicles. With SpaceX, the product is rockets. However with Twitter, the product is individuals.

Cash transfers, vehicles, and rockets are aware of engineering prowess. Persons are unimaginable. Persons are horrible, and sensible, and unusual, and nasty, and intelligent, and conniving. Individuals chew again in a approach that software program and {hardware} don’t. So though my religion in Musk as a strategic govt is nonpareil, I predict that Elon Musk will fail as Twitter proprietor. Ten years from now, once I think about he’ll not be Twitter’s chief, the narrative of Twenty first-century know-how will shift from “Software program is straightforward; {hardware} is difficult” to “Software program is straightforward, {hardware} is tougher, and people are unimaginable.”

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