Twitter: why Elon Musk is so keen to take control

At first, the story of Twitter and Elon Musk looks a bit like an unrequited love affair.

Our unlikely couple begins with a power imbalance.

Elon Musk loves Twitter. He has a massive following of 83.8 million followers. He tweets prolifically, sometimes controversially, sometimes catastrophically. The SEC banned him from tweeting about Tesla business after a tweet erased $14 billion from its stock price, and he was sued for defamation over a tweet about a cave diver in which he called him “pedo guy” (the cave diver lost).

But he never strayed from his keyboard.

Twitter, on the other hand, is much less expansive about Elon Musk.

You might think that if someone offered you $44 billion for a 16-year-old company that hadn’t really benefited from the exponential growth of its rivals, they were doing you a favor – and Twitter shareholders seem inclined to be dissenting. ‘deal.

He wants to see Twitter realize its “extraordinary potential,” he says — and he’s not even interested in making money from it. There are plenty of them already, and multi-billionaires can afford to have different priorities.

Twitter responded by going straight on the defensive, rolling out a “poison pill” strategy that prevented anyone from owning more than 15% of its shares while Musk circled, although a deal has now been reached.

Why?

Perhaps the board was pissed off by Musk’s statement that he wanted to see more “freedom of speech” and less moderation. Many Republicans, who have long believed that Twitter’s moderation policies promote free speech from left-wing viewpoints, rejoiced.

But regulators around the world are lining up to crack down on social networks and force them to take more responsibility for the content they put out, handing out hefty fines for non-compliance on material that incites violence, or is abusive, or classified as hate speech, among others. You can hear the alarm bells start ringing.

Could Musk be using Twitter to incentivize payments in volatile, unprotected currencies such as Bitcoin?

Let’s not forget the finances. Twitter’s main business model is based on advertising – and Musk wants to change that. He’s more interested in subscriptions, he says, which could prove a tough sell in an environment where all major social networks are free. Twitter users may decide they’d rather not have their data used to monetize it, and they’re willing to pay for it — but that’s a gamble.

He also loves cryptocurrencies. Could he use the platform to incentivize payments in volatile and unprotected currencies such as Bitcoin?

And then there’s Musk himself. He’s the richest man in the world, a serial entrepreneur whose successes include PayPal and Tesla. He’s charismatic and unfiltered – which can make him a very loose cannon. He likes to test the limits and break the rules.

There’s a reason he refused to join Twitter’s board after buying a 9.2% stake in January — he didn’t want to be held accountable.

And he’s got an army of loyal fans who adore him – I’ve tweeted before that because of the way his finances are structured (his wealth is largely stock based rather than income in cash, and he does not own property) – he does not pay income tax.

How dare I suggest he could, he is brilliant and we should just be grateful to him, were the responses.

He didn’t exactly woo Twitter with flowers and chocolates, it was an aggressive offer from an aggressive businessman – no bargaining, 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 would be a very different landscape for the 300 million people who continue to use it, if at all. More courageous, perhaps, and less liberal. He could reinstate Donald Trump, who currently has a permanent ban – and given that Mr Trump’s own attempt at a social network, Truth Social, seems to be floundering, he would probably be happy to return.

It is difficult to summarize the collective view of Twitter users. In my unscientific observation, for every tweet welcoming Musk, there seems to be another threatening to leave. But then – since when do Twitter users agree on anything?

About Alexander Estrada

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