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Elon Musk Would possibly Be Simply What Twitter Wants

To be trustworthy, I nonetheless can’t imagine this occurred. Earlier at this time, 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 workers. How will Musk remodel the social community whereas remaining chief government 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 here 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 person is aware of Musk’s true motivation.

Within the largest image, what occurred is {that a} car-and-rockets government who made his title in digital funds purchased a web site the place individuals scream at each other concerning 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 an excellent government. One in every of his corporations technologically outpaced NASA on the similar time that his different venture grew to become essentially the most helpful automobile firm on this 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 completely happy—is a totally totally 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? All the things is in play right here.

2. Let’s be trustworthy: Musk shopping for Twitter might be good for Twitter.

Inside Media Twitter, there may be little social punishment for being relentlessly destructive about every little thing. (Whenever you’re paid to observe a information cycle that ping-pongs amongst authoritarianism, pandemic, and warfare, “relentless negativity” comes slightly naturally from merely paying consideration.) However this glum bias can prejudice journalists in opposition to seeing how, typically, not every little thing seems maximally dangerous. So, whereas my total 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 feel Musk shopping for Twitter might truly be good.

Twitter is among the most necessary merchandise within the area of data. Within the information discourse, Twitter could be very typically the straw that stirs the drink. Nevertheless 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 Subjects 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 study extra about Zendaya’s red-carpet look.

Why is it such a foul enterprise? I’m undecided, precisely. However contemplate the truth that, on the board-of-directors stage, Twitter is mainly run by a bunch of people that by no means use Twitter. If I instructed 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 loads of issues,” or “I’ll wager the diners continuously complain about it,” or “I think that repeated requests to vary 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, they usually’re implausible. My level is that company management issues, and it is likely to be good to have any individual who cares lovingly for Twitter to be in control of Twitter—if for no different purpose than to do one thing about that infernal Trending Subjects field. Musk’s love of Twitter is past doubt. His capacity 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 here are some large 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 with the ability to purchase extra shares of our consideration? Or does Trump’s presence make his awfulness extra distinguished within the minds of moderates, pushing extra individuals away from the Republican Occasion?

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 immediately code the anti-woke Musk as a liberal? If Trump sees Musk’s Twitter as a risk to his SPAC, will he lead conservatives in opposition to Musk’s total company portfolio? Would that scale back demand for electrical autos 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 might 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 difficulty.

My optimistic outlook for Twitter mainly comes all the way down to this. Twitter could possibly be lots higher: There’s extra low-hanging fruit than you suppose. And Elon Musk truly makes use of and likes Twitter, which makes him a superb candidate to repair these issues.

My pessimistic outlook for Twitter mainly comes all the way down to this: I’m undecided what Musk’s plans for “light-touch content material moderation” will appear to be. However operating a social-media web site seems to be one thing like tending to a backyard, besides the backyard is the scale 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 vary the norms round extremist speech and abuse. However I do suppose that extremism and abuse will develop into much more salient beneath Musk’s management, given his fame. Because of this, whether or not Twitter truly cuts down on abuse, I feel we are going to within the subsequent few months hear extra concerning the abuse that’s all the time been there. Put otherwise: A lot of individuals actually hate Elon Musk, they usually’re going to be vocally vital of simply how terrible Twitter is turning into—or all the time was.

5. People are unattainable.

Elon Musk has proved himself to be a unprecedented entrepreneur and businessman within the domains of digital funds, electrical autos, and area flight. However social media is absolutely, actually totally 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 attentive to engineering prowess. Persons are unattainable. Persons are horrible, and sensible, and unusual, and nasty, and intelligent, and conniving. Folks chunk again in a approach that software program and {hardware} don’t. So though my religion in Musk as a strategic government 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 expertise will shift from “Software program is simple; {hardware} is tough” to “Software program is simple, {hardware} is tougher, and people are unattainable.”

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