On Monday afternoon, Twitter announced that they would be going through with Elon Musk’s plan to buy the company in what is possibly the largest tech takeover by a private citizen in history. His plan is to buy up all shares of the company and then take the platform back to private ownership, where he would have control over the on-site policies. According to Musk, he bought Twitter because he is a “free speech absolutist.” He believes that “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.”
In addition to his plans regarding free speech, Musk also has some smaller ideas regarding the user interface and ease-of-access side of Twitter. One complaint by users is the lack of an edit button. Musk has said that he would implement an edit button for people to fix typos without deleting their entire tweet, although a visible changelog would likely be kept in order to prevent misuse. He has also expressed disdain, like most rational people, for spambots on Twitter. He has said that this would be a priority for him during his reign. “If our Twitter bid succeeds,” he said, “We will defeat the spam bots or die trying!” He said that he wants to add the ability to “authenticate all real humans” similar to Facebook. He has also expressed interest in expanding Twitter’s subscription element, making Twitter Blue (premium) cheaper and doing away with advertising for those users.
It’s likely that Musk made the purchase for more reasons than just business, but if the past is anything to base assumptions on, he certainly could turn Twitter into a more profitable business than it has been. In the words of Derek Thompson, a staff writer for The Atlantic, “Musk is a brilliant executive. One of his companies technologically outpaced NASA at the same time that his other project became the most valuable car company in the world.” But at the same time, “unlocking the value of its content, opening the free-speech spigot, clamping down on abuse, all while making heavy users on both the far left and the far right simultaneously happy—is a completely different challenge.”
Now we have to acknowledge the big orange elephant in the room: whether or not to invite The Donald back. In what was seen by many, at the time, as Twitter’s largest overreach, former President Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter for incitement of violence during the January 6 Capitol Hill riots. Seeing how Elon Musk has been so adamant about his stance as a “free speech absolutist” it is unlikely that The 45 would remain banned. At the same time, Trump has said explicitly that he does not want to come back, so it may not matter. Trump’s new social media app, Truth Social, is up and running, and the user base may also not feel comfortable switching back to an app that was so hostile towards their favored figure. Twitter does have an incredible advantage, however. The sheer size and scope of the platform would allow it to throw its heft around like a heavyweight boxer, markedly manhandling Trump’s impotent attempt at social secession. He said the following in a statement to Fox News on Monday: “I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH. I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH.” Now, these statements were issued before the deal was closed that afternoon, so it’s possible that The Teflon Don of the White House Lawn was holding back so as to not inhibit the deal. His implied future presence on Twitter would likely cause people to be far warier about selling their shares to Musk.
While Elon’s plan to take over Twitter has been controversial everywhere, it is still in new development and could go any number of ways. As Derek Thompson confidently says in his analysis, “Anybody who is extremely confident about how this is going to work out doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Ultimately that’s something that we have to accept. This is something that could change the lives of terminally online netizens everywhere, but it’s unknown exactly how. It’s important to remember that patience is a virtue, and as Joel Toppen, professor of Political Science at Hope College says, “Politics is Science Fiction for the patient.”