Elon Musk: The New Power on Twitter

Elon Musk: The New Power on Twitter

by Richard Waters and Hannah Murphy
financial Times
Translation: Laura Marcus

The tech billionaire has previously used his wealth to make a mark in the news business. These include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Washington Post owner and Marc Benioff of Salesforce, which acquired Time magazine with his wife in 2018.

But no one can hold a candle to Elon Musk. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who has long been one of the loudest voices on Twitter, this week became the social network’s largest shareholder and the newest member of the board. This put him in an influential position in one of the most famous news services in the world.

Although Twitter is more of a technology platform than an editorial product, Musk’s unique position is likely to have the same effect as the classic “press chief – whether on paper or online”, according to Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism at City University. According to New York.

Musk’s foray into new media brings with it another peculiarity: With 80.6 million followers, he has become a key part of the mechanism that drives engagement on Twitter. This conversation is important for how the company fares on Wall Street. In turn, he has used his role as the site’s most notable business rock star to seek personal vengeance, promote his companies and tech ideas, and – as his business interests have expanded – an increasingly to advance the political agenda.

Photo: Patrick Plell/Pool via Reuters

Twitter and Musk therefore share the discovery of the conversation. According to financial analysts and social media experts who follow the company, it is doubtful whether it will have a long-term positive impact on communication culture or shareholder wealth. “Honestly, it could go either way,” said Joseph Squally, an analyst at Truist Securities.

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Twitter stock is up 30 percent since the announcement of Musk’s 9.2 percent stake on Monday. This suggests that Musk’s influence is expected to lead to some progress on some of the issues that are plaguing the social media site. These include slow product development and the inability to reach a very large global audience.

According to Jefferies analyst Brent Thiel, Musk’s technical prowess and good product “understanding” — combined with the dynamics that characterize his companies — could make him a catalyst for change.

There’s already a sign that Musk is already making an impact. Twitter announced Tuesday that it will soon be testing an “edit” button that will allow users to edit their tweets later. Something Musk has championed, though the company said the idea had been in the pipeline for some time.

According to former Twitter employees, even after years of internal disputes, no final settlement could be reached on the subject, which was highly controversial for both technical and ethical reasons. Speaking figuratively, according to a former employee, Musk marched into the middle of the office and said, “Here’s what’s going to excite you the most.”

Musk’s push for recently-appointed Twitter boss Parag Agarwal is likely to present another challenge. He is already under strict scrutiny from active investor Elliot Management. Another powerful investor, Silver Lake’s Egon Durban, joined the board after investing $1 billion two years ago.

Personal relationships can calm things down here. Musk worked closely with Silver Lake’s Durban in planning to buy Tesla, and until three weeks ago was a board member of Endeavor, another Durban-backed company. He resigned from the Endeavor board to relieve himself of other unspecified commitments – a sign he is already in talks with Twitter about joining the board.

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However, Musk has always made the quality of being found very disruptive in any company he is involved in. And he firmly holds some technical views that have drawn him a lot of criticism. Describing the billionaire’s violent reaction, one Twitter employee said: “He’s a lunatic. We don’t want him here.”

The CEOs of Tesla and SpaceX are responsible for a long list of Twitter controversies. “the way he [Twitter] He has been entangled with the government. They used it to attack journalists,” Jarvis explained.

The consequences of some of Musk’s most ill-considered tweets include a settlement with regulators that led to him stepping down from Tesla’s board of directors. It also had a high-profile defamation lawsuit over whether he accused anyone of pedophilia (Musk won the lawsuit).

He has also used Twitter for his political agenda. Among other things, he has criticized regulators and governments, in particular the US Securities and Exchange Commission. When the US state of California pushed Tesla to close a plant because of the coronavirus, Musk called it “fascist” on Twitter. However, when Tesla’s Shanghai plant was closed late last month due to similar circumstances, Musk apparently remained silent.

Photo: Shutterstock

According to Anupam Chander, professor of global Internet regulation at Georgetown University, traditional news outlets have long had clear rules about maintaining editorial independence. Conversely, one cannot determine whether “Elon Musk or any other billionaire is making a false attempt to control the largest communications platforms today.”

Musk has urged Twitter to relax its content moderation policies and lift restrictions on what you can say on Twitter. It aims to bring the social network back to the “freedom of expression” that existed in its early days. This could lead to Musk clashing with the Twitter CEO. He has explained that the key issue for the social media giant is not free speech, but creating a “healthy public conversation” that determines “who listens.”

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Many say Musk’s status as a board member, largest shareholder and loudest voice on Twitter could prompt the company to relax its content guidelines.

According to Professor Chander, it could also mean that Twitter reverses Donald Trump’s lifetime ban. This may well be the case, as Twitter now has someone on its board who “supports the liberal thinking that pervades the Internet.”

Such policy changes could create a controversy that escalates negotiations in the short term. But it could also reverse progress made in the fight against bullying and the spread of misinformation, which will ultimately damage the platform, Jarvis said.

But analysts such as Brian Weiser, global president of business intelligence at ad giant GroupM, say it could hurt the company by making free speech complete. “Big advertisers don’t like toxic environments.”

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