A nifty app called X? A haven for free speech without bots? Now that Elon Musk might buy Twitter, after all, these are some of the strange things he wants to do with the company.
After fighting for months over the fate of their $44 billion deal, the billionaire and the bird app are pretty much back where they started, but both sides seem to have lost some trust and goodwill.
Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and Twitter’s most famous user since Trump was kicked off, hasn’t said much about what he wants to do on the social media site. Since he agreed to buy the company in April, he has talked a lot about free speech and made fun of spam bots, but it’s not clear what he wants to do about either of those things.
Fear caused by lack of info.
In a few weeks, he might own one of the most powerful communication platforms in the world, with 237 million daily users. However, the deal is not yet done. People who use Twitter, especially in conflict zones where it’s a vital source of information, and the company’s own employees are worried about the lack of clear plans for the platform.
Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor at Cornell University who studies social media, said that both users and advertisers are worried about how the change will affect the platform’s culture. “Musk will have to decide if he wants to calm their fears by keeping core features (like the content moderation system) and keeping the company public, or if he wants to do a complete overhaul.”
Musk tweeted on Tuesday, adding to the confusion, “Buying Twitter is an accelerator to making X, the everything app.” He didn’t say why.
What plans does Elon Musk have for Twitter?
Even though Musk’s tweets and statements have been vague, technology experts think he wants to make an app like China’s WeChat that can do video chats, messaging, streaming, scanning bar codes, and payments.
He gave a little more information during Tesla’s annual shareholders’ meeting in August. He told the crowd at a factory near Austin, Texas, that he uses Twitter a lot and knows the product well. He said, “I think I have a good idea of where to point Twitter’s engineering team to make it radically better.”
One important part of the app could be taking care of payments for goods. Musk said he has a “grander vision” for what could have been with X.com, an online bank he started early in his career that later became part of PayPal.
Musk said at the August meeting, “That could be started from scratch, but I think Twitter would help speed that up by three to five years.” “So I thought it would be something that would be useful for a long time. What should I do?”
Obstacles for Elon Musk after buying Twitter
For now, Twitter has problems that Musk will have to deal with right away if he takes over the company. Its social media competitors are having trouble because their stock prices are going down, and some of them, like Snap, has even announced layoffs.
There are also problems with government rules and getting younger people to use the app instead of TikTok. And Musk’s idea of a free speech haven worries people who work in social media and content moderation, as well as digital rights and human rights activists.
Critics worry about Musk’s plan.
“When this all started in the spring, we had signs and a strong idea of what Elon Musk might do with the twitter,” said Angelo Carusone of Media Matters, a group against the takeover. “Because of the lawsuit, we know who he’s been talking to, what he’s been saying, and what kind of far-right decision-makers he wants to put in place. In other words, the worst fears have come true.”
Under former CEO Jack Dorsey and his predecessors, Twitter employees worked for years to turn the platform, which was once known as the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party” and was full of hate and harassment, into a place where everyone feels welcome and safe. Even though it’s not perfect, critics worry that if Musk owns it, he’ll turn back the clock on years of work.
Why do Critics worry about Musk’s plan?
“Musk made it clear that he would roll back Twitter’s community standards and safety rules, bring back Donald Trump and dozens of other accounts banned for violence and abuse, and open the floodgates to false information,” Carusone said.
In 2013, after U.K. politician Stella Creasy got a lot of rape and death threats on the platform, the company was one of the first to add a “report abuse” button. This was similar to what other women had gone through over the years.
In the years that followed, Twitter kept making rules and putting money into staff and technology to find violent threats, harassment, and false information that broke its rules. After it became clear that Russia used its platforms to try to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, social media companies also stepped up their efforts to stop political misinformation.
The big question now is how much Musk wants to change these systems and whether users and advertisers will stay if he does.
Musk said in May that he wants Twitter to be “as inclusive as possible” so that most Americans can use it and talk on it. This is a far cry from the far-right playground that his critics are worried about.
Musk has said he might think about bringing Trump’s account back, but it’s not clear if the former president, who now has his own social media platform, would come back.
Then there’s the problem of Twitter’s employees, who have had to deal with uncertainty, high-profile (and not-so-high-profile) departures, and a potential owner who made fun of them on Twitter. Musk has also criticized Twitter’s policy of letting people work from home. He has said that the company’s headquarters should be turned into a “homeless shelter” because so few people work there.
Musk does know how to use Twitter. He uses it all the time and has more than 100 million followers. Musk told everyone at a staff meeting in June that his goal was to make the car “so interesting that you can’t live without it.” If he can make this happen, it could finally put Twitter in the same league as TikTok, Meta’s Facebook, and Instagram, where there are billions of users instead of just millions.
Musk is also known for making predictions that don’t come true right away or may not come true at all, like settling on Mars or putting out a fleet of self-driving taxis.
“This is not a car company where all you have to do to be good enough is beat General Motors. Sorry, but that’s not that hard, “Professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland David Kirsch has studied how Twitter bots affect the price of Tesla’s stock. “You are dealing with all of these other companies with advanced AI programs and Ph.D. programmers. Everyone is trying to crack this nut.”