Elon Musk Might Be Just What Twitter Needs

To be trustworthy, I nonetheless can’t imagine this occurred. Earlier in the present day, 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 menace to purchase the social-media service.

News of the deal has polarized Twitter customers and staff. 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?

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 largest image, what occurred is {that a} car-and-rockets government who made his identify 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 a superb government. One of his firms technologically outpaced NASA on the identical time that his different undertaking turned probably the most precious automobile 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 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 gifted 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 received this? Or perhaps the shark eats him instantly? Everything is in play right here.

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

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

Twitter is without doubt one of the most vital merchandise within the area of data. 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 be taught extra about Zendaya’s red-carpet look.

Why is it such a nasty enterprise? I’m unsure, precisely. But contemplate 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 need to recommend that zero Twitter engineers and product managers are on Twitter. Many are, and I do know a few of them personally, and so they’re unbelievable. My level is that company management issues, and it could be good to have someone who cares lovingly for Twitter to be in control 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 potential 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 having 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 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 all of a sudden code the anti-woke Musk as a liberal? If Trump sees Musk’s Twitter as a menace to his SPAC, will he lead conservatives in opposition to Musk’s total company portfolio? Would that cut 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 could 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 concern.

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

My pessimistic outlook for Twitter mainly comes right down to this: I’m unsure what Musk’s plans for “light-touch content moderation” will appear to be. 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 all places 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 change into much more salient underneath Musk’s management, given his status. 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 at all times been there. Put in a different way: Lots of individuals actually hate Elon Musk, and so they’re going to be vocally important of simply how terrible Twitter is changing into—or at all times was.

5. Humans are not possible.

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 de facto, 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 conscious of engineering prowess. People are not possible. People are horrible, and good, and unusual, and nasty, and intelligent, and conniving. People chew again in a manner 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 know-how will shift from “Software is easy; hardware is hard” to “Software is easy, hardware is harder, and humans are impossible.”

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