In a deal described as the largest of its kind in two decades, famous billionaire Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and SpaceX, has acquired Twitter, one of the largest social media platforms in the world, for $44 billion. This purchase raised questions on potential changes to the platform, despite no explicit mention of any policy outlining these changes. However, based on some of Musk’s previous tweets and press statements, many have teased out the new forms that the Twitterverse may take in the months to come.
The following are some of the key changes and shifts that may be coming to Twitter as a result of Musk’s takeover:
1. Changing the Twitter Brand: With Musk now in charge, Twitter embarks on a new phase in its history, transforming into a private company after being publicly listed since 2013. Musk has stated that the platform is the "modern public space" for tackling vital issues pertinent to the future of humankind. This deal represents a radical shift from the positions of Twitter’s old management, which tried initially to throttle the deal due to concerns over taking the platform private. Some also see Musk’s unexpected statements and accusations of bullying as contrary to Twitter’s core values.
2. Exhaustive Overhaul: In his first statement after concluding the acquisition deal, Musk said that he will utilize Twitter’s huge potential to increase users’ trust in the platform and make it better than ever before. His plans to achieve this include working with the company and the user community, authenticating all real human accounts, and eliminating bots. As evidence of this, Musk tweeted after the takeover, "I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features."
3. Supporting Free Speech: Musk criticized Twitter’s policies that do not support free speech as he desires. In March, he tweeted, "Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?" He also believes that the platform’s monitoring and moderation are politicized and do not enable a real public forum for everyone to express their views. In other words, Musk wants to stop Twitter from standing in the way of free speech, especially as Twitter suspends accounts of controversial figures, such as former US President Donald Trump, on charges of spreading violence.
4. Open-source Algorithms: Musk has emphasized the importance of making Twitter’s algorithms "open source," thus enabling users to understand how it promotes certain content and thus perhaps provide relevant suggestions for improvement. Musk wants to make the tweet algorithms transparent for users so that they understand why certain selective tweets appear in the feed, as well as promises to get rid of bot accounts that tweet randomly. He also criticized highly inactive accounts, highlighting the profiles of some famous figures, like former US President Barack Obama or Justin Bieber, both of whom have only tweeted once this year.
5. Introducing "Edit Tweets": Many users over the years have requested an "Edit Tweets" feature to fix any typos or modify their tweets after posting. In April, Musk asked his followers, "Do you want an edit button?" 73.6% (4 million users) voted "Yes," and then one day later, Twitter announced that it is working on this new feature.
6. Rethinking Advertisement Policy: Musk prefers that Twitter be ad-free, stating "the platform should not have ads so it can have more control over its content moderation policies." Nevertheless, it is unlikely that ads would be banned given their lucrative benefits. Musk said earlier that he believes in a subscription-based model for Twitter instead of the ad-oriented business model; however, he has since quickly deleted this tweet.
7. Countering Fraud: Musk has previously been the victim of fraud on Twitter, which cost some people more than two million dollars in cryptocurrency, not to mention being directly hacked in 2020 and having his private messages and information published for all to see. A teenager also created a Twitter account to track Musk’s private jet. He then offered the teenager $5,000 to delete the account, which the latter declined. In this context, Musk wants to clear the platform of fraudulent accounts and bots to create a safer place for users, regardless of the uncertainty over the methods for implementing this.
The acquisition deal of Twitter says a lot about the current and future state of the platform specifically and social media in general:
1. Big Deal: The acquisition came four days after Musk unveiled a funding package to support the deal, entering into unconfirmed negotiations until he managed to win over Twitter’s shareholders with his attractive offer. According to the deal, Musk will pay the shareholders $52.50 per share, a 38% premium to the stock’s closing price the day before he disclosed his stake in the platform.
2. Driving Forces: Musk had repeatedly expressed his concerns about the site managers’ involvement in the platform. In the official bid, he said, "I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe." In speaking about the platform’s current structure, he admitted "I don’t have confidence in management" to make the necessary changes for Twitter to support free speech, adding, "Since making my investment, I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form." In another tweet before the deal, he also noted, "I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter."
3. Question Marks: All eyes are on Musk’s new policy, and until then, no one can guess how the new Twitter will be. Whether the changes will be for the better or worse, whether the company’s staff will continue working for it or not, and whether it will move its headquarters or not are all questions still up in the air. Twitter threads and pithy statements are not enough to draw any conclusions. It also remains unclear how Musk will announce the new policy, i.e., whether he will do it on Twitter or hold a public conference.
4. Scope of Impact: This deal will make the world’s wealthiest man in charge of one of the most influential social media networks, which will undoubtedly have major repercussions on other platforms and tech giants. Several questions have been raised over the potential conflict brewing between Musk and Jeff Bezos (the founder and former CEO of Amazon), especially after the latter published some of the former’s tweets on China, calling into question Musk’s real commitment to free speech. However, in the short term, these attacks will likely not amount to much, as the deal will take months to be implemented, meaning that Musk will not take control of Twitter until fall.
5. Financial Revenues: The acquisition is also an implicit indictment against Twitter’s new CEO, Parag Agrawal, who took the position in November 2021 and did not meet the company’s revenue aspirations, despite moving in the right direction to achieve its ambitious financial objectives for 2023. In concluding this deal, it could be argued that Musk aims to exceed these targets. As his empire grows to include the world’s leading social media network, Musk could fix Twitter’s business model to offer the company for IPO in a few years, even turning it into a giant corporation like Tesla and SpaceX.
6. Handling Alternative Platforms: Trump said he will not return to Twitter even if his account is reactivated. Instead, he will activate his account on Truth Social, the startup he owns, in the next few days. Truth Social, part of the Trump & Media Technology Group, officially launched last month. The platform was hosted on new cloud services for four days and is headed by former California Senator Devin Nunes as its CEO. However, after the Twitter deal, the shares of Digital World Acquisition Group, the company preparing to offer Trump’s startup for IPO, witnessed a sharp drop in its value.
In conclusion, Musk utilized his enormous wealth to acquire Twitter in a bid to make the platform better. He attempts to do so by adding several new features, making its algorithms "open-source," and allowing users to speak more freely (within legal limits). On the other hand, some people fear that Musk’s ownership could spread violent, conservative-leaning content, an issue many social media networks consistently have to contend with.