You guys! Elon Musk says his intentions are really pure and selfless in deciding to buy Twitter for $44 billion and take it private, and he's doing this "to help humanity, whom I love."
It's Thursday, October 27, 2022. We're in the thick of Scorpio Season and Spooky Season all at once. And Elon Musk is, for real this time, taking over as primary shareholder and (apparently?) CEO of Twitter. He's changed his Twitter bio to say "Chief Twit," so it must be happening.
The deal is supposed to officially close Friday, and Musk marched into Twitter's mid-Market offices in San Francisco on Wednesday carrying a porcelain — all so he could make the meme-inspired dad joke, "Let that sink in!"
Oh, to have money to burn and 110 million followers hanging on your every word and meme.
On Thursday morning, Musk posted what is, for him, a novel of a tweet — an open letter of sorts to advertisers trying to assure them that he isn't trying to break what isn't broken and he not, contrary to some rumors, looking to remove advertising from the platform altogether.
"Low relevancy ads are spam, but highly relevant ads are actually content!" Musk writes, surely inspiring some eyerolls in the advertising and marketing spheres.
Obviously it would be financial suicide to buy a platform as big as Twitter and set fire to its main source of revenue at this point, and Musk seems to want advertisers to know that he's not that dumb.
But as many pundits have pointed out at this point, being a power user of Twitter, as Musk is — and one could argue that his own addiction to and popularity on the platform was likely a primary driver behind this acquisition — does not make you necessarily well suited to managing and running such a platform. And Musk's notions about "freedom of speech" and content mediation seem to reflect an understanding of such topics, vis a vis social media, that's about ten years out of date.
Twitter tried being a free-for-all, and it didn't work so well. They've since tried having some rules about what you can not do on the platform, and cracked down on people who abuse it in the interest of, say destroying democracy, and it works maybe a little bit better but it's still a lot of chaos.
Musk addresses this somewhat in his mini open letter, implying that he intends to remove some guardrails but perhaps also allow plenty of customization and segmentation options within Twitter, so that users who want to remove themselves from the fray can do so, and just look at cat memes.
Musk reiterates that he bought Twitter to preserve it as a "digital town square" where all sides of an issue can have "dialogue," in contrast to "traditional media" which has come to cater more and more to the "polarized extremes" of far left and far right, and the similar splintering of some social media in similar directions.
"That is why I bought Twitter. I didn't do it because it would be easy. I didn't do it to make more money. I did it to try to help with humanity, whom I love," Musk writes, inspiring immediate skepticism given that earnestness/sincerity has never been his strong suit. "That said, Twitter obviously can't become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!" Musk writes, likely not understanding that removing most guardrails at this point and letting Trump back on will create exactly that in a matter of weeks.
He suggests then that users in the future will be able to "choose your desired experience according to your preferences" — and hopefully that means that people will be able to choose not be doxxed, threatened, and harassed for speaking their mind or just being in a minority that someone else hates.
If Musk does go through with significant layoffs at the company, especially in departments that think through and handle some of these issues — to the minimal extent that the company has even been able to handle these issues since they were first raised over a decade ago — it's hard to imagine how Twitter won't return to the hellscape it was not that long ago. Or at the very least devolve into a lot of troll wars.
Remember that time that a kid put up a Twitter bot that tracked the movements of Elon's private jet and he didn't like that? I bet that won't be allowed anymore! I wonder if the bots chasing Russian oligarchs' jets will be taken off Twitter too!
We'll see how all this goes.
Landed in San Jose, California, US. Apx. flt. time 50 Mins. pic.twitter.com/PozBgR4UUo— ElonJet (@ElonJet) October 27, 2022
Update: Elon Musk's biographer, Walter Isaacson, tweeted a photo of Elon holding court at the coffee bar inside Twitter HQ on Thursday morning.
Top image: A view of Twitter headquarters on October 26, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Elon Musk has reportedly visited Twitter headquarters in San Francisco ahead of the Friday deadline to complete his $44 billion deal to purchase the social media company. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)