The World’s richest man, Elon Musk has just finalized a $44 billion deal to buy social media platform, Twitter.
Twitter announced that an agreement have been reached with the Tesla CEO to take the company private. This acquisition gives Musk, who is well known for his theatrics, control over a social network with a worldwide influence on society, politics and lifestyle.
Twitter was the 9th most visited website in the world in 2021 with 2.4 billion sessions, 620 million unique. On number of active users, the platform averages 217 million daily users with over 500 million tweets per day.
These numbers bring into focus how important Twitter currently is in our current reality.
So giving the richest man in the world, a believer in free speech, this much power can be scary. So what comes next now that the deal is basically finalized?
Musk personally describes himself as a “free speech absolutist”. According to him, the content moderators on social media platforms go too far in limiting what is allowed. After the acquisition was announced, Musk said “free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”
During a TEDx conference, he said, “Well, I think we would want to err on the, if in doubt, let the speech, let it exist. If it’s a gray area, I would say let the tweet exist. But obviously in a case where there’s perhaps a lot of controversy, you’re not necessarily going to promote that tweet. I’m not saying I have all the answers here.”
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Currently, Twitter bans accounts that post abuse, or tweet about physical harm to someone else, or harassment. So, it’ll be interesting to see how that might change under Elon Musk.
Remember, he also criticized Twitter’s decision to ban former US President Donald Trump. According to Twitter, Trump was banned for tweets which were inciting violence.
It’s not all about free speech, Musk has also talked about stopping Twitter from running ads. About 90% of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising but with him taking the platform private, there’ll be no more pressure from shareholders to grow the advertising revenue.
According to Musk, “the power of corporations to dictate policy is greatly enhanced if Twitter depend on advertising money to survive”.
He also wants to give users to ability to edit their tweets. Twitter users have been clamoring for an edit feature for a very long time but the platform felt otherwise. There’s an argument for either side of the divide. For the people that want the edit feature, they argue it’ll help fix up typos on tweets, however on the other side, the argument is that an edit button could be weaponized. An edit button could be used to cover up abuse or harassment as well as manipulate people.
Right now, all we can do is wait and see what changes Elon Musk would actually make and what those changes will mean for the future of the platform.