Big Changes for Social Media
Imagine you are the richest person in the world. You could buy all the cheese in the world. Elon Musk bought Twitter. On April 14th, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX made an offer of $43 billion dollars that would take one of the furthest reaching social media platforms from public to private. Although Twitter accepted the deal, it’s still inching its way towards closure by the end of 2022.
Before we look at how Musk’s purchase of Twitter may change the platform in the future, here’s a bit of history. Twitter launched in 2006 after being originally founded as a podcast platform. It has since been transformed into what we know it as today, one of the most popular social media platforms attracting upwards of 217 million users globally. In 2013, Twitter went public and has traded at its peak for $77.63 a share. In recent years Twitter has been surpassed by Tik Tok and Instagram, but still maintains a growing user base frequented by world leaders, politicians, celebrities, and cultural influencers.
Although Musk claims to not be interested in monetizing Twitter, you do not become the richest man in the world without making consistently smart financial decisions. Twitter’s advertising will undoubtedly need an overhaul under Musk’s supervision since it has not turned a profit in 8 years. Really? Baffling. Do social media execs really ignore their competition’s advertising methods? Say it isn’t so.
Musk is infamously obsessed with user experience (UX) evident in his spending oodles on branding Tesla. I’m excited to see what he does with Twitter. He is also anti-bots and anti-fake users (this is currently holding up the sale). The most likely outcome will be another emphasis on removing fake accounts and bots, which will temporarily lower Twitter user numbers, as demonstrated in 2020.
Most tech companies are built on small features that they own copyrights to. Elon Musk penned a letter in 2014 announcing that Tesla would make all patents available and would not pursue legal action against anyone using them in good faith. This could also be in the future for Twitter, “making algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots and authenticating all humans.”
As a privately owned company, Elon has made it loud and louder that he plans on removing all narrative control on Twitter. It’s important to differentiate between free speech and censorship especially when it comes to social media and what each platform controls vs. what the government controls. Free speech is the right to speak, publish, read, or view what you would like without government interference. Censorship is essentially the opposite, and when it involves the government, censorship is illegal.
Musk said that as a privately owned company he would reverse the permanent ban on former President Trump. A big part of his reasoning is that he wants Twitter to be the only social media platform where people can openly express their opinions. Permanent bans undermine trust and perpetuates fear. Twitter is currently a public company and has the legal right to censor and control what is allowed to show up on your feed. Often this censorship is controlled by shareholders, big advertisers, or even consequences from app stores such as Google Store and Apple App (see child pornography Tumblr ban of 2018). You know. Money.
Musk’s own track record of Tweeting with abandon suggests he will support more of the same from users regardless of their opinions.
With the 217 million plus users globally Twitter is still a contender, even with the juvenile appeal of Tik Tok. The biggest changes will be the crackdown on fake accounts, spam, and bots. It’s unclear if Elon Musk’s golden touch will improve the platform performance, or maybe it’s all just a private experiment for his own opinion to be heard along with those he agrees with. Watching how he personally addresses anything viewed as vulgar or harmful may be the most intriguing part.
Currently, Musk is the single largest Twitter public shareholder. How will that benefit him when he takes Twitter private and there are only private shareholders allowed to buy Twitter stock? What happens to all the current public shareholders? How does it work? Maybe he plans to flip it around in the future and make it public again?
Then again, how can I expect to understand someone who is building a network of underground tunnels as traffic control. Me no get. Yet.