Musk & Twitter: Can we all please calm TF down?
Nothing crazy has happened in the hours since the world’s wealthiest individual took control of the world’s oddest social media company, and nothing crazy is likely to happen.
By Brad Berens
A bunch of things—some nutty and some not—happened once Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter closed on Thursday:
- Musk fired the CEO and a bunch of other executives.
- Musk walked into Twitter HQ carrying a sink and tweeted a video of it with the caption “let that sink in.”
- Late night hosts dunked on this mild dad joke in ways that were way less funny than the not-terribly-funny dad joke itself. (BTW, if I’d made that joke, my kids’ eyes would have rolled so hard you would have thought somebody was playing Ping Pong.)
- Musk, the free speech absolutist, tweeted a letter to advertisers in which he said that he would absolutely moderate content on Twitter. This is because advertising is currently Twitter’s sole source of revenue.
- Advertisers and media agencies adopted a wait-and-see attitude, except for General Motors which paused its advertising… in part, perhaps, because Musk owns Tesla, a rival car company.
- Musk also followed Facebook’s lead and formed a “content moderation council” that would make the tough decisions about who to kick off the platform. “No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” he said in a tweet.
- He did this because hate speech exploded across Twitter right after the deal closed.
- I saw a tweet allegedly from the 45th president saying, “I’m back! Thanks, Elon!” But it was obviously from a newly created account from somebody else. Twitter deactivated the account. But the folks I was with when this happened didn’t know to look at the Twitter username and almost freaked out.
- A bunch of pundits and people I follow on social media wrung their hands, deactivated their accounts, and acted as if it we had reached the end of days.
Can we all please calm TF down?
We can still measure how long Musk has been in control of Twitter in hours. It’s way too soon to fret about what is going to happen.
Musk suffers from the common delusion that being wealthy makes him an expert on everything, but he’s undoubtedly a brilliant guy and, more importantly, he’s a brilliant product guy.
I don’t pay attention to Musk’s opinions about politics, but he is the CEO of the company that made the best car I’ve ever owned: a Tesla 3.
Has anything surprising or stupid happened?
My futurist scorecard is mixed when it comes to Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
Most recently, I thought he’d delay the acquisition until after the mid-terms in order not to get blamed for reinstating or not reinstating 45 and whatever impact that might have on the election. He didn’t delay because the Delaware Chancery Court wouldn’t let him. Instead, he created the moderation council and punted that decision down the road… presumably for more than the few days between when I’m writing this and the mid-terms.
This was an entirely sensible thing for Musk to do.
In fact, dad joke aside, once Musk realized that he was going to own Twitter he started acting more sensibly than the Twitterati who were all twitterpated by his tweets and prior-to-close hijinks.
Sure, he fired the CEO and a handful of other leaders, but they’ve been in a very public fight for months. Why would he keep them around?
Yep, he’s laying off a ton of people, but he now owns the company and has to service many billions of dollars of debt. As I’ve said many times, the most critical thing to Musk is the wealth that comes from his Tesla stock, some of which is now in hock to his Twitter acquisition. Of course he’s going to make deep cuts at Twitter while he figures out what to do with the company. All social media is in trouble on Wall Street right now, so this too is sensible.
I still believe that Musk miscalculated: he thought he’d flirt with buying Twitter, cozy up to the MAGA crowd so that they wouldn’t think that only MSNBC-watching liberal snowflakes drive electric cars, and then change his mind and dance away. Didn’t happen.
Now we get to see what Musk, the brilliant product guy, does with Twitter, which has always been a better idea than it has been a product.
I’m officially bored with this story. I’ll watch for big policy changes before the mid-terms, which are unlikely, but otherwise I’m moving onto more interesting topics.
Brad Berens is the Center’s strategic advisor and a senior research fellow. He is principal at Big Digital Idea Consulting. You can learn more about Brad at www.bradberens.com, follow him on Twitter, and subscribe to his weekly newsletter (only some of his columns are syndicated here).
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November 4, 2022