The billionaire’s purchase of the major social media platform has left its future in doubt, with significant changes likely coming.
Only a few weeks ago, Elon Musk – the richest man in the world and the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX – publicly indicated that he had no interest in buying Twitter, saying that doing so would be “a recipe for misery.”
But within a few days of this proclamation, he had bought the social media company for $44 billion. This about-face from the capricious billionaire investor will likely not be the last, and thus the future of Twitter, a platform which Musk himself says is “important to the function of democracy,” has come to rest in the hands of a single man known for his unpredictability.
Right now, it seems likely that Musk will go through with the deal, which he reached with Twitter on April 25. In a few days, however, the prospect could be altogether different, just as it was earlier this month when Musk briefly flirted with joining the company’s board of directors. And it is this volatility of outlook which has led many to speculate on what could come next.
From his public statements, Musk is deeply concerned with the state of free speech on the platform. He has said that Twitter should be “politically neutral” and should upset “the far right and the far left equally.” He has also argued that Twitter’s moderation policies should largely conform to the law and err on the side of free speech when in doubt. Among other things, Musk has been critical of Twitter’s decision to quash a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in 2020, mere weeks before the election.
These comments also come after a long series of bannings of conservative political figures, most notably former President Trump, which have led many conservatives to allege political bias by the platform. In fact, the mere announcement of Musk’s purchase led to a bump in followers for a number of major conservative Twitter users, and a corresponding decline for liberals. Twitter attributed this to an organic change in the makeup of users following the sale.
The outlook is likely bleak for Twitter’s current CEO, Parag Agrawal, who only recently took over for founder and longtime company head Jack Dorsey. Previously, Agrawal has said that Twitter should not “be bound by the First Amendment” – a vision that runs in contrast to Musk’s stated goals for the company. The same goes for a number of high-ranking Twitter employees who expressed shock and dismay over Musk’s purchase.
Some have even theorized that the move might lead to a return for Dorsey, with whom Musk has previously had mutually kind words, and who has shown a higher regard than Agrawal for Twitter’s role in facilitating free expression.
It is also possible that Musk will revert to his initial skepticism of owning Twitter. The CEO, who is already juggling several major business ventures, will likely have his hands full running the social media company, and his leadership decisions may be deferred to his underlings. If Musk backs out of the deal to buy Twitter, then he will have to pay a $1 billion penalty, but this might be a surmountable hurdle for the man currently worth over $260 billion, and who once gained $36 billion in a single day.
All in all, interesting times are coming for Twitter, and the rest of us – whether Twitter users or otherwise – are along for the ride.