San Francisco- A superapp called X? A bot-free free speech paradise? Here are some of Elon Musk’s mysterious plans for Twitter, now that he might, after all, buy the company.
After months of wrangling over the fate of their $44 billion deal, the billionaire and the birdie app are essentially starting from scratch, or perhaps from further back as trust and goodwill on both sides have eroded.
Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, as well as Twitter’s most prominent user since former President Donald Trump was ousted from the platform, has shared few concrete details about his plans for the social network. Although he has trumpeted free speech and criticized bots since he agreed to acquire the company last April, what he actually plans to do about it remains shrouded in mystery.
In the coming weeks, he could become the owner of one of the most powerful communication platforms in the world, with 237 million daily users, although the agreement is not final. The lack of clear plans for the platform is sparking concern among Twitter’s social pillars, ranging from users in conflict regions where the platform is an information lifeline, to the company’s own employees.
“Users and advertisers alike are understandably anxious to find out if the move will fundamentally change the culture of the platform.”said Brooke Erin Duffy, a Cornell University professor who studies social media. “And so Musk will need to make a decision whether he wants to allay his concerns and keep the core functions (the content moderation system, for example) and keep the company public, or whether he wants to do a complete transformation.”
Muddying things up further, Musk tweeted on Tuesday that “buying Twitter is an accelerator to the creation of X, the app at all,” but gave no further explanation.
Although Musk’s tweets and statements have been enigmatic, tech experts have speculated that Musk wants to create a version of the Chinese WeChat app, which can video chat, exchange messages, stream, scan barcodes. and make payments.
He provided a bit more detail during Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in August, where he told a crowd gathered at a plant near Austin, Texas, that he uses Twitter frequently and knows the product well. “I think I have a good idea of where to take the engineering team with Twitter to make it radically better,” she said.
Handling the payment of products could be a central part of the app. Musk said he has a “bigger vision” of what could have been X.com, an online bank he created early in his career that eventually became part of PayPal.
“Obviously that could be started from scratch, but I think Twitter would help speed it up by about three or five years.”Musk noted during their August meeting. “So it’s something that I think could be quite useful for a long time. I know what to do”.
For now, Twitter has immediate and pressing issues that Musk will have to deal with if he acquires the company. His competitor social networks are having problems with the decline in their share price. Some, like Snap, even announced layoffs. Government regulations and taking young users away from TikTok are also some of the challenges. And Musk’s vision of a free speech paradise has social media and content moderation experts, as well as digital and human rights activists, worried.
“When all this started in the summer, we had indicators and a good idea of what Musk could do with the platform,” said Angelo Carusone of Media Matters, a group that opposes the acquisition. “Because of the lawsuit, we know who he’s been talking to, what he’s been saying, and the kind of people with far-right ideologies that he wants to put in charge of decisions. To put it another way, our worst fears have been confirmed.”
Twitter employees, under former CEO Jack Dorsey and his predecessors, have spent years working to turn a platform where hate and harassment abound into a place where everyone is welcome and safe. Though far from perfect, critics worry that Musk’s management is going back several years in time on this matter.
“Musk made it clear that he would revoke Twitter’s community standards and safety guidelines, reinstate Donald Trump and a host of other accounts that were suspended for violence and abuse, and open the floodgates of disinformation.”Carusone added.
For example, the company was one of the first to implement the “report abuse” button in 2013, after Stella Creasy, a member of the British Parliament, received a series of death and rape threats via Twitter, an experience lived by other women over the years.
In the years since, Twitter has continued to create rules and invest in staff and technology to detect violent threats, harassment and disinformation that violated its policies. After evidence emerged that Russia used its platforms to try to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, social media companies stepped up their efforts against political disinformation.
Now the big question for Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist, is: how badly does he want to roll back these systems, and will users and advertisers stay on the platform?
To allay those concerns, Musk said in May that he wants Twitter to be “as inclusive as possible,” a place where, in an ideal scenario, most of America is expressing itself, a far cry from the park. right-wing arcade that its critics fear.
And while Musk has hinted that he would consider activating Trump’s account again, it is unclear if the former president, who has already launched his own social media platform, would return to Twitter.
Also, There is the matter of Twitter employees, who have been dealing with uncertainty, with the departure of staff at all levels and with a potential owner who has publicly criticized them on their own platform. Musk has also lashed out at Twitter’s work-from-home policy, after he once called for the company’s offices to be turned into a “homeless shelter” because, he said, too few employees were working there.
As a highly active user on Twitter with more than 100 million followers, Musk knows how to use the platform. During a staff meeting he attended in June, Musk said his goal was to make Twitter “so cool you can’t live without it.” If he is able to pull this off, he could finally put the platform in the big leagues of social media, alongside TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, where the number of users is counted in the billions, not just the millions.
Of course, Musk is also known for his predictions that take time to come true or simply never materialize, such as the colonization of Mars or the deployment of a fleet of autonomous taxis.
“This is not a car company where it is enough to leave General Motors behind. Sorry, but that’s really not that hard,” said David Kirsch, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, who has studied the effects of Twitter bots on Tesla’s share price. “Here we’re dealing with all these companies that also have very sophisticated AI programs, very sophisticated programmers with Ph.Ds…everyone is trying to figure this out.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism