Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter the acquisition of the social media company. What does he plan with it? “I think Musk underestimates the effects of radical free speech,” said Pieterjan Van Leemputten, technology reporter at Data News.
In April, Musk announced he was buying Twitter for $44 billion. In May, he questioned the large number of fake accounts on the platform and reversed his decision in July. Twitter then filed a complaint to allow the sale to continue. Just before this lawsuit began, Musk decided to buy the courier service for the agreed amount. The lawsuit was not dropped by Twitter, but put on hold. On Wednesday morning, Musk walked into Twitter headquarters in San Francisco unannounced with a sink in his hands. He tweeted: Enter Twitter HQ. let it flow (“I’m going to Twitter headquarters. Let that sink in for a moment”). A washbasin is a “sink” in English. On Friday morning, Musk announced on Twitter that the deal was done.
“The Bird is Freed” (the bird has been released) Musk wrote on Twitter. Who or what does the brand new and self-proclaimed “Chief Twit” want to rid the platform of?
Pieterjan Van Leemputten: Primarily because of what he sees as overly strict content controls on tweets. He wants to make Twitter a bastion of free speech, where everyone should be able to say anything. He probably thinks the current rules are too strict, but a social network is like a living organism. If it is badly moderated, it can be completely turned upside down in a few months.
I think Musk underestimates the effects of radical free speech. The Internet of the past, when there were almost no content restrictions, was not always a pleasant place. To avoid misery, you need sound control systems and lots of people. But Musk says he wants to lay off 75% of the workforce.
Musk should also realize that there are many free speech laws. If Twitter wants to stay active in Europe, it will have to follow European rules, which are getting stricter instead of looser. Europe will not immediately block Twitter, but I expect a conflict.
Twitter is currently not in the top newspapers. It emerged this week that the most active Twitterers, who generate the most advertising revenue, seem to be leaving the platform. The number of users on the platform is stagnating around 225 million. Musk said he was aiming for 800 or 900 million users. Does he have a plan for this?
From Leemputten: We have no idea at the moment. Twitter has struggled for years to generate revenue from advertising because it is such a relevant platform. As an advertiser, you have many more options on Facebook. Twitter consists of one feed, and you don’t want it to be so cluttered with ads that it becomes boring.
I can’t say that Musk is incapable of bringing 800 million users to Twitter. The man is indeed brilliant and capable. At the same time, he likes to brag without providing much clarity. But if Musk turns Twitter into a different product, that could change a lot.
Musk revealed that he dreamed of creating X: a complete application. Should we see the takeover of Twitter from this angle?
From Leemputten: If that’s his plan, then Twitter is a good place to start. But in the West, Facebook has already tried this. The underlying idea is that the user’s virtual life then takes place on a single platform. This user can shop, make friends, find a lover and work there. Facebook has had this ambition for years, but still hasn’t succeeded.
In a country like China, it seems possible. There, everything happens via WeChat or Line. If you walk around a city like Shanghai, you can use your phone in a cafe, take the bus, buy movie tickets… So I understand where Musk wants to go, because if you have the app that everyone uses, developers who want services must offer to pay for it. This is what the App Store already does. Companies pay a commission to sell their app.
If anyone can develop such a comprehensive platform in the Western market, it’s Musk. Still, I think his chances are slim. First of all, it is quite late with the acquisition. I can imagine it would be more interesting if such an app could grow organically. And Musk has too many opponents for that. If Chinese WeChat came to Europe, I would give it a better chance of success than Twitter.