Opinion | Elon Musk decides to set $44 billion investment in Twitter on fire



As Twitter advertisers race for the exit, the world’s richest man has apparently decided to set fire to his $44 billion investment.

Some might say that Elon Musk, who became the official new owner of Twitter last week, regrets the buyer. But that means he actually had wanted the thing before he bought it. In April, the mercurial billionaire made an overpriced takeover offer, which he then tried to reverse.

Perhaps understandable: Twitter has been plagued with problems, both monetary and moral, for years. When Musk made his offer, tech stocks were already dwindling, and it was clear he had no plan for founding the company, nor was he inclined to squander much of his fortune to find out. After some legal back and forth, he reluctantly agreed to complete the $44 billion acquisition.

Now Musk, who is also chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX (which don’t seem to be quite part-time jobs), is trying to figure out what to do with his new toy.

He has already started pursuing some controversial changes. They include charging users for their “blue check” verification badges, as well as developing a new paid video feature, which will likely be used for “adult” material. But his most mind-boggling moves include concurrent plans to A) control less content while B) increase ad revenue.

These goals are somewhat at odds.

Musk has long complained about censorship on Twitter, including the suspension of high-profile accounts (such as those of former President Donald Trump) and other users accused of hate speech or baseless conspiracy theories (of which Musk himself occasionally acts). For this reason, his takeover has been applauded by free speech absolutists, as well as racists, Holocaust deniers, and other tinfoil hat wearers who claim they “shadow-forbidden” or otherwise muzzled for too long.

Look, I’m not going to pretend that finding the right level of content moderation is an easy task. People can’t agree on what’s considered “misinformation,” so it’s quite difficult to teach an algorithm to identify it. One person’s fake news is another’s freedom of expression. Allowing more hostile, deviant, or otherwise questionable tweets will drive some users away, but banning them will also infuriate other users (and some lawmakers).

Musk has made it clear that he will allow a lot more content that would once have been taken down and punished by Twitter staff — which may be an easier strategy to implement if you’re considering firing half of your staff.

Even before any concrete new content policy seems to have been implemented, legions of trolls and bigots have already started testing the crash barriers. In the 12 hours following Musk’s final purchase, n-word use on Twitter increased nearly 500 percent, according to the Princeton-based Network Contagion Research Institute.

Advertisers, Twitter’s main source of revenue, are nervous about these developments and what the platform could look like in the Musk era. Adidas may not want its logo to appear alongside anti-Semitic tweets, for example. (If you don’t believe me, ask Kanye West, now known as Ye.) Family-friendly brands probably aren’t keen on appearing alongside porn, either.

IPG and Havas Media, both multinational advertising companies, have advised clients to pause their spending on Twitter for now, and an IPG-owned consultancy reports that most of the clients surveyed plan to follow the recommendation.

Some consumer brands have already done so, including General Motors (a competitor of Tesla). The Financial Times, citing internal sources, reported on Wednesday that L’Oréal had also suspended its ad spending on the platform; the company then released a statement saying it had “not made any decisions” about Twitter ads.

But one can understand why the global cosmetics and haircare giant disagrees with the issue: Skinheads probably don’t buy a lot of shampoo, but they power are on the market for new sunscreen.

Musk’s first response to advertisers’ concerns was to assure brands that Twitter will not turn into a “free-for-all hellscape(too late, I think). When that strategy didn’t work, he tried to cyberbully them into sticking around. In a Twitter poll Posted On Wednesday, he asked his followers whether advertisers should support “freedom of speech” or “political correctness”. ”

It is hard to imagine that this strategy will be successful. Either Target and Pepsi and the like think it’s a good use of their advertising dollars to share a platform with neo-Nazis and incels, or it isn’t. The whole thing reminds me a bit of recent attempts by progressives to scold and punish companies for lowering their prices, rather than changing the incentives those companies face.

Musk and the Democratic Party may not have much in common these days. But maybe they can bond through this one shared experience: They both learn the hard way to shame companies for doing something that isn’t in their financial best interest.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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