At first, the story of Twitter and Elon Musk feels like a story of unrequited love.
Our unlikely pair starts out with an imbalance of power.
Elon Musk loves Twitter. It has a huge audience of 87 million followers. He tweets prolifically, sometimes controversially, sometimes catastrophically.
He was banned from tweeting about Tesla’s affairs by the US Securities and Exchange Commission after a tweet wiped $14 billion from its stock price, and he was sued for defamation after a tweet in which he called Tesla a “pedophile.” a diver who participated in the rescue of a group of boys in a cave in Thailand in 2018 (a case that Musk ultimately won).
But he has never strayed far from his keyboard.
Twitter, on the other hand, is much less effusive about Elon Musk.
You might think that if someone offers you $ 44 billion for a 16-year-old company that hasn’t really enjoyed the exponential growth of its rivals, they’re doing you a favor, and Twitter’s shareholders seem inclined to agree.
Musk wants to see Twitter reach its “extraordinary potential,” he says, and he’s not even that interested in making money from it. You already have a lot, and billionaires can afford to have different priorities.
Twitter responded by going on the defensive, deploying a “poison pill” strategy that prevented anyone from owning more than 15% of its shares while Musk prowled, though a deal has now been struck.
Perhaps the board was unnerved by Musk’s statement that he wanted to see more “free speech” and less restraint .
Many members and supporters of the US Republican Party, who have long felt that Twitter’s moderating policies favored free expression of leftist views, rejoiced.
But regulators around the world are lining up to crack down on social networks and force them to take greater responsibility for the content they broadcast, issuing hefty non-compliance fines for material that incites violence, is abusive or classifies as speech. hate, among other things.
Alarm bells begin to ring.
Let’s not forget finances. Twitter’s main business model is based on ads, and Musk wants to change that. He’s more interested in subscriptions, he says, which could be a tough sell in an environment where the major social networks are free to use.
Twitter users can decide if they prefer their data not to be used for monetization and are willing to pay for it, but it’s a gamble.
He also likes cryptocurrencies. Could you use the platform to incentivize payments in volatile and unprotected currencies like bitcoin?
And then there is Musk himself. He is the richest man in the world, a serial entrepreneur whose successes include PayPal and Tesla. He is charismatic and unfiltered, which can make him very unpredictable.
He likes to test the limits and break the rules .
There’s a reason he refused to join Twitter’s board of directors after buying a 9.2% stake in January: He didn’t want to be subject to liability.
And he has an army of loyal fans who adore him.
I once tweeted about the fact that because of the way his finances are structured (his wealth is largely based on stocks rather than cash income, and he doesn’t own property), he doesn’t pay income tax. .
How dare I suggest such a thing? “He’s brilliant and we should just be thankful to him,” other users replied.
He hasn’t exactly courted Twitter with flowers and chocolates, this has been an aggressive offer from an aggressive businessman, no negotiation, no compromise.
It’s a private sale, from a private company, and it’s not a merger between two giants , so there are unlikely to be many regulatory hurdles.
Musk’s Twitter may be a very different scenario for the 300 million people who continue to use it, if at all.
A more feisty platform, perhaps, and less liberal.
It could reinstate Donald Trump, who is currently on a permanent ban, and since the former president’s attempt to create a social network, Truth Social, appears to be failing, he would probably be happy to return.
It’s hard to summarize the collective view of Twitter users.
In my unscientific observation, for every tweet welcoming Musk, there seems to be another one threatening to leave . But then, since when do Twitter users agree on anything?
- Zoë Kleinman
- BBC Technology Journalist