Elon Musk Would possibly Be Simply What Twitter Wants

To be trustworthy, I nonetheless can’t imagine this occurred. Earlier at the 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 latest reminiscence, Musk fought off preliminary opposition and a poison-pill risk to purchase the social-media service.

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

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. Nobody is aware of Musk’s true motivation.

In the most important image, what occurred is {that a} car-and-rockets government who made his title in digital funds purchased a web site the place folks scream at each other in regards to the information. Anybody 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 of his corporations technologically outpaced NASA on the similar time that his different venture grew to become essentially the most beneficial automotive firm on the earth. But 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 satisfied—is a very 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, possibly he’s truly acquired this? Or possibly the shark eats him instantly? Everything is in play right here.

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

Within Media Twitter, there may be little social punishment for being relentlessly adverse about every part. (When you’re paid to observe a information cycle that ping-pongs amongst authoritarianism, pandemic, and warfare, “relentless negativity” comes quite naturally from merely paying consideration.) But this glum bias can prejudice journalists towards seeing how, generally, not every part seems maximally dangerous. So, whereas my whole Twitter timeline is crammed with folks predicting calamity and threatening to go away the service in protest, I wish to spend a little bit of time outlining why I believe Musk shopping for Twitter might truly be good.

Twitter is among the most essential merchandise within the area of knowledge. In the information discourse, Twitter could be very typically the straw that stirs the drink. But 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 Topics 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 nasty enterprise? I’m unsure, precisely. But take into account the truth that, on the board-of-directors degree, Twitter is mainly run by a bunch of people that by no means use Twitter. If I advised you {that a} restaurant was run by cooks who by no means style the meals, you may say one thing like “It sounds like the food might have a lot of problems,” or “I’ll bet the diners constantly complain about it,” or “I suspect that repeated requests to change the menu are met with relative indifference,” and guess what, all of that is kind of true with Twitter.

I don’t wish to counsel that zero Twitter engineers and product managers are on Twitter. Many are, and I do know a few of them personally, they usually’re unbelievable. 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 command of Twitter—if for no different motive than to do one thing about that infernal Trending Topics field. Musk’s love of Twitter is past doubt. His means to transmute that love into nifty app updates for energy customers is much less sure.

3. The political results of Musk taking on Twitter are going to be actually attention-grabbing.

When Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump in January 2021, it was unprecedented. Here 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 with 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 folks away from the Republican Party?

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 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. And then there’s the abuse situation.

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

My pessimistic outlook for Twitter mainly comes all the way down to this: I’m unsure what Musk’s plans for “light-touch content moderation” will seem like. But 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 in every single place you look.

I don’t know what Musk will do to vary the norms round extremist speech and abuse. But I do suppose that extremism and abuse will turn into much more salient below Musk’s management, given his repute. As a outcome, 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: Lots of individuals actually hate Elon Musk, they usually’re going to be vocally vital of simply how terrible Twitter is changing into—or all the time was.

5. Humans are unattainable.

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

Money transfers, vehicles, and rockets are aware of engineering prowess. People are unattainable. People are horrible, and good, and unusual, and nasty, and intelligent, and conniving. People chew again in a method 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 now not be Twitter’s chief, the narrative of Twenty first-century expertise will shift from “Software is easy; hardware is hard” to “Software is easy, hardware is harder, and humans are impossible.”

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