Last night time, after Twitter accepted his $44 billion bid to purchase the corporate, Elon Musk traveled to South Texas, the place SpaceX is constructing prototypes for a rocket system designed to take folks to Mars sometime. Earlier, he had shared a few of his to-do checklist for the social-media firm he might quickly personal outright: “enhancing the product with new features,” “defeating the spam bots,” and making the platform’s algorithms public and obtainable for anybody to see. But that night, his to-do checklist was extra concrete. According to the creator Walter Isaacson, who’s writing a Musk biography, the billionaire “held his regular 10 pm meeting on Raptor engine design, where he spent more than an hour working on valve leak solutions. No one mentioned Twitter,” Isaacson tweeted. “He can multitask.”
Certainly no one doubts that Musk—already the head of SpaceX, Tesla, the Boring Company, and Neuralink—can multitask. The murkiest question about his newest acquisition is not whether he can switch between space travel and social media but what he’s thinking about free speech when he’s not contemplating valves. Right now, before he takes charge of his new business, the most anyone can do is make educated guesses about how Musk’s stance as a self-described “free speech absolutist” may manifest, and skim his tweets like sopping tea leaves on the backside of a mug.
But one way to think about how Twitter might fare under Musk is to look at how the billionaire operates those other enterprises that occupy his mind. More than any Muskian pronouncement, that history can hint at what his ownership might mean—for Twitter as a company with thousands of employees, a platform with millions of users, and an unruly public forum on an unruly internet. I’ve described Elon’s world before as the Musk Cinematic Universe, and in his businesses, as in Marvel movies, certain themes appear again and again, impatience first among them. Here are four axioms for what to expect next.
1. If Twitter has a factory floor, Musk might try to sleep on it.
Musk is a well-known workaholic. During particularly intense production sprints at Tesla, Musk was at the company’s offices day in and day out, sleeping below his desk, on a sofa, and even on the factory floor itself. The goal in those moments was to produce several thousand Model 3s a week, a decidedly more concrete effort than managing algorithms. But if Musk decides to really dive into Twitter, its employees can expect this level of involvement. He certainly has the time. Although Musk is working closely on SpaceX’s vision for its Mars rocket, known as Starship, the rest of the enterprise runs quite smoothly without him, under the watchful eye of COO Gwynne Shotwell, launching both people and payloads into space without requiring its chief designer’s presence in mission control. Musk has spent years becoming an expert in electric-car manufacturing and rocket engineering; his next learning binge could be about content moderation.
2. He’s interested in his ideas, not your complaints.
Some Twitter employees reacted with “shock and dismay” at Musk’s takeover, in accordance with The Washington Post, worrying that Musk “would attempt to break down safeguards to protect everyday users that staff had built over many years.” And he has given at least one sign that he would not step in between vulnerable users and aggressive, dangerous behavior. Last month, Musk said that following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “some governments (not Ukraine)” had requested SpaceX to configure its Starlink web satellites to dam Russian information sources; Musk stated “we will not do so unless at gunpoint.” Among a number of attainable eventualities for a Musk-owned Twitter, the most probably consequence, as Charlie Warzel writes in his e-newsletter at The Atlantic, is that Twitter will return to an earlier state, circa 2016, when the platform “prioritized free-speech maximalism and underinvested in tools for users to protect themselves,” producing an setting with minimal moderation and extra rampant harassment and hate. So the customers who stand to have a worse time on Twitter below Musk are the identical individuals who have dangerous experiences there already—ladies, folks of shade, members of the LGBTQ neighborhood, and different minority teams—who’ve benefited most from the precise instruments that Twitter has put in place in an try and deflect abuse.
Some Twitter employees have additionally expressed concern that Musk “could inflict damage to the company’s culture and make it harder for people to do their jobs,” the Post reported. The analogues within the MCU are bleak. Musk is a visionary, however he’s a horrible boss. He has reportedly berated staff and even fired them on the spot. Black staff at Tesla have described brutal cases of racial harassment at Tesla; in February, California filed a lawsuit towards Tesla on behalf of greater than 4,000 present and former Black employees. Last 12 months, a number of feminine former SpaceX staff described the sexual harassment that they had witnessed or skilled on the firm, saying that administration failed to guard accusers and penalize perpetrators. On prime of all this, Musk has retaliated towards staff who publicly converse out towards his firms. (Musk and his firms have denied any wrongdoing previously.) Accordingly, Twitter staff ought to anticipate him to have little endurance with criticism or complaints, nevertheless justified.
3. Prepare for rogue proclamations.
Musk has a fame for setting unrealistic deadlines. In the autumn of 2019, for instance, Musk stated that his Starship rocket would attain orbit in lower than six months; SpaceX has not even made its first try but, and certain received’t till later this 12 months, when—as is usually the case with experimental rockets—the primary one will most likely explode. The house neighborhood refers to Musk’s formidable method to timelines as Elon Standard Time. Building spaceships takes for much longer than reprogramming one operate of an internet site, however don’t anticipate your person expertise to alter inside days of a tweeted decree.
On some events, Musk will declare that his firms are going to do one thing—apparently with out warning the managers at these firms, sending staff scrambling to succeed in a deadline they’ve already missed. In 2020, when Musk tweeted that Juneteenth is “henceforth considered” a vacation at Tesla and SpaceX, some Tesla staff have been already at work. And when Musk’s clarification that staff would wish to make use of their trip days to mark Juneteenth, a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved folks in America, prompted vital backlash, SpaceX despatched an electronic mail to employees reversing course, saying that the day would certainly be an official, paid firm vacation, beginning the next 12 months. So, take Musk’s guarantees with a grain of salt till you see the outcomes.
4. Musk might go full “maker of civilization” on Twitter.
Last night time, Jack Dorsey, the founder and former CEO of Twitter, tweeted that he believes Musk will put Twitter on the fitting path, saying “I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.” Where have we heard that earlier than? From Musk, after all, who makes use of the road usually when he talks about sending folks to Mars and making our species “multiplanetary.” These targets, he says, are essential to protect earthly life. Already, he’s doing the identical with Twitter, elevating what occurs on the platform to a priority of civilizational significance and even a civilizational good. “Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk stated in a press launch yesterday.
But observe that Musk is following his personal imaginative and prescient for humanity, not anybody else’s. So he’s more likely to form Twitter into the form of person expertise that he himself needs. And that imaginative and prescient might be backed up by his trademark relentlessness, the speaking about valves for an hour at 10 p.m. on a Monday night time power. Even Jeff Bezos, who needs his personal house enterprise, Blue Origin, to assist return American astronauts to the moon, believes that it’ll be as much as future generations to hold out his most sci-fi ambitions, corresponding to constructing house habitats round Earth with synthetic gravity. Musk needs to go to Mars now, and he needs the world round him to bear the indicators of that effort. That’s why he renamed a road close to SpaceX’s launch website in South Texas “Rocket Road,” even when the individuals who lived close by weren’t all that happy about his presence. Expect Twitter to develop into wrapped up in Musk’s utopian—or, relying in your viewpoint, dystopian—narrative, and possibly be careful for a Free Speech Lane close to the corporate’s headquarters.
Musk’s well-known emotions about reusable rockets, electrical vehicles, underground tunnels, and high-speed trains, although, can’t predict precisely what the actual implications of his reign at Twitter might be—significantly for individuals who aren’t outright Musk followers, whether or not they’re sad Twitter staff or journalists tasked with scrutinizing his efforts. I’ve been serious about that final one fairly a bit. Yesterday, as information of the Twitter buyout appeared imminent, 4 folks returned house from the International Space Station inside a SpaceX capsule, splashing down off the coast of Florida. The subsequent crew is scheduled to launch tomorrow. These missions appear routine now, however spaceflight is a harmful and generally lethal enterprise. What occurs if a SpaceX mission fails and kills the astronauts on board, and all of a sudden Twitter is flooded with folks attempting to resolve the scenario?
Musk would have at his disposal a method to regulate the narrative that NASA, for instance, didn’t have within the aftermath of the shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003—and the company actually tried to regulate these narratives. Maybe he received’t take away crucial or curious customers in a proper sense, however might he slide into their DMs and provide to purchase their silence, as he did with the faculty scholar who runs an account concerning the whereabouts of Musk’s non-public jet? (The scholar instructed me that Musk blocked him after he declined the provide.) “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk tweeted yesterday. Eventually, these phrases might be dramatically examined in a wide range of eventualities. NASA has employed SpaceX to develop a model of Starship that may sometime land American astronauts on the moon for the primary time in 50 years (sorry, Bezos). And the crew will tweet from the lunar floor, simply as they do from the house station. “One small step” would have gone over nicely with Musk, I’m positive. But would the astronauts take an additional beat earlier than posting, to actually take into consideration what they need to say, not solely as a result of they know they’re utilizing Elon Musk’s social community, however as a result of they’re counting on him to deliver them house?