Technology

How messy might Twitter get under Musk

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk added Twitter to his secure of firms on Monday, buying the social media platform for $44 billion {dollars}. Whether he made this buy to lastly notice his aspirations as a “free speech absolutist” or simply did it to place an finish to his nemesis, @ElonJet, as soon as and for all stays to be seen, however adjustments are abound for the web’s third-favorite hellsite. Engadget’s reporters have some ideas on what these might be.


There are solely two predictions I really feel assured making: Twitter will get an edit button, and staff are going to go for the door. Even under the most effective of circumstances, huge acquisitions are likely to end in a good quantity of worker turnover and govt shakeup. And for a lot of tweeps, Musk taking up could be very removed from the most effective of circumstances. Musk rankled the Twitter rank and file earlier than the deal was even official, with tweets about whether or not Twitter was “dying” and whether or not the company’s HQ must be transformed right into a homeless shelter.

But now they’ve far more to fret about than his common trolling. Musk’s bid has already negatively impacted recruiting efforts, according to The New York Times. And present staff nonetheless don’t have clear solutions on how Musk’s acquisition will have an effect on their stock packages, a good portion of their complete compensation. There are additionally actual, existential questions on how Musk’s questionable views on content material moderation will have an effect on the company and the route of the service. As CEO Parag Agrawal reportedly informed staff following the information, “once the deal closes, we don’t know what direction the platform will go.”

Karissa Bell, Senior Reporter


It cannot get a lot worse, proper?

While I’m certain Twitter’s moderation coverage will get watered down, it is exhausting to think about the doomsday eventualities the place it turns into some form of 4Chan/Stormfront cesspool.

Twitter is a world company, with worldwide advertisers and worldwide customers. It’s broadly certain to make sure its content material is in step with the legal guidelines of the international locations through which it operates, which severely limits the power to create the “free speech” oasis of Musk’s goals, no less than if he additionally would love it to be a purposeful, broadly breakeven company on the similar time. The company’s moderation of its platform is already horrible, and other people both make do by going non-public/blocking folks, or (hello) hand over on the entire tweeting factor altogether. So I’m anticipating extra of the identical, which is to say, I’m anticipating it to be largely terrible.

Aaron Souppouris, Executive Editor


I’ve lined Elon Musk in his roles as each head of Tesla and SpaceX for a number of years now, witnessing his sneering contempt for journalism, transparency, primary ethics and accountability up shut and in particular person. I’ve sat by means of his easily-disproved boasts, his myriad empty guarantees and publicity stunts. This is a person who belittles society’s most vulnerable members to achieve the panting adoration of 4Chan trolls, who demonizes the helpers to spice up his personal fragile ego, a person who would declare himself God-Emperor of Mars earlier than paying his earnings taxes. Is this your king?

I dread the consequences this sale can have, not only for Twitter itself, however the web writ giant. The destabilizing results social media amplification has on societal and democratic norms have been nicely studied for the reason that 2016 elections. What just isn’t but totally understood is what occurs once we hand management over that mechanism to the world’s wealthiest contrarian. As such, my recommendation to you’re the similar clever phrases Samuel L Jackson had for us in Jurassic Park: Hold onto your butts.

Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter


I believe the most important problem about attempting to foretell an Elon Musk-led Twitter is separating the man’s on-line persona from his business practices. Musk catches numerous flak (usually deservedly) for dumb or insensitive tweets, one thing most different CEOs know or have been educated to keep away from. But on the similar time, Elon is a slightly shrewd businessman, individually helming what has turn out to be the world’s largest EV carmaker alongside essentially the most profitable non-public area aerospace company.

With Tesla and SpaceX there is a clear sample of high-risk, high-reward conduct, which, resulting from a mix of luck and smarts, has labored out up to now. Musk gives the look of being a transfer quick and break stuff sort, and his newest disruption appears to be bringing free speech (or his model of it) to Twitter, no matter how that might influence others. This probably greenlights each tweet that is not explicitly inciting violence or distributing delicate data (just like the plans for a nuclear bomb or no matter).

In the quick time period, Must will look to assist enhance Twitter’s backside line, which the company desperately wants after shedding greater than $200 million in 2021. Engagement (each good and dangerous) sells, and turning Twitter into a good larger battleground would virtually definitely end in a fast spike in customers. Musk might even do one thing foolish like elevate the restrict on tweets to 420 characters. Down the road, Musk’s plan to authenticate all humans sounds so much like a distinct taste of Sam Altman’s troubled Worldcoin endeavor, and I‘d bet there’s far more crypto integration coming to the platform usually.

The huge concern is that a few of Twitter’s points concerning harassment and abuse will proceed to go unaddressed. Though that really might be a function. Moderation prices money, and by pushing Twitter down the free speech path, Elon conveniently might be capable to absolve the company of getting to guard its customers whereas concurrently lowering working prices. Sure, there’s an opportunity that eliminating anonymity and linking each tweet to a particular particular person might cease folks from spouting nonsense they wouldn’t dare say in actual life. But I wouldn’t depend on it. So until higher safeguards are coming too, Twitter might devolve into essentially the most chaotic social media platform round.

Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter


Yes, Musk is divisive, a puerile troll that at age 50 appears to have completed his emotional progress many years prior; a loudmouth who is sort of always spouting off simply disprovable nonsense. His concepts on a “free speech” haven are an echo of the wrong-headed pondering that was a north star for social media founders a decade or extra in the past, and which they’ve spent the time since regretfully paddling away from. Musk can also be, by accounts, a capricious and vindictive boss whose alleged love of free speech is perpetually subservient to his hatred of dissent.

And all of that is, greater than some outward-facing exodus of customers, more likely to lead Twitter staff to rethink if it is all definitely worth the agita. Who desires to develop for product classes (moderation specifically) which have successfully been marked for loss of life? Who desires to go to a job that feels extra just like the What Did My Boss Fuck Up Today sitcom?

But that this sale went by means of in any respect is indication sufficient that, whether or not led by Musk or actually anybody else, Twitter in all probability is headed for the nice dustbin of historical past. The folks whose job it’s to do nothing however flip money into extra money ran the numbers and decided nobody was or would ever deliver a greater supply, nor was the company — which just about all the time posts a loss— was ever going to stabilize right into a recurring supply of revenue.

Musk, the PT Barnum of techno-magic bullshit options, would in all probability gleefully categorize himself as an accelerationist: Accelerating the buildup of area junk; the eventual drowning of pedestrians in underground tunnels; the mass adoption of combusting non-combustion vehicles. And on this occasion my sense is he’ll speed up the demise of Twitter by a number of levels too, however do not give him an excessive amount of credit score, it was headed that manner anyhow.

Bryan Menegus, Senior News Editor


Reality usually sits in between our biggest hopes and worst fears, and I’d count on the identical for Twitter under Elon Musk. It’s simple to see his laissez-faire content material moderation resulting in the revival of some hate speech and harassment that Twitter beforehand eliminated. At the identical time, I do not assume a Musk-era Twitter will probably be a full-fledged calamity. Not everybody who was banned will probably be keen to come back again, and Musk could need to rethink his stance if there are any actually poisonous parts that resurface.

I say there is a one-in-three likelihood that Twitter goes sideways inside two years of the deal closing — that’s, the content material moderation and the company’s general route result in severe hassle. Those are very distinct prospects, however they don’t seem to be assured and should take years to unfold. They could hinge as a lot on customers’ needs as they do on Musk’s choices. I’d count on lots of Twitter’s anti-toxicity instruments to outlive, reminiscent of downvoting replies.

With that stated, I’m totally ready to be incorrect. Musk is known for heading in sudden instructions. This is the person who launched a tunnel company after complaining about LA site visitors, in spite of everything. I simply do not see Twitter going through imminent catastrophe, and it will not be shocking if the company reins in a few of Musk’s impulses.

Jon Fingas, Reporter

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