By: Covenant Odedele
Elon Musk is not a name that wouldn’t come to your ears readily, as the man has grown to give different definitions for his name. If not as the CEO of Tesla, you must have heard he rose through the ranks to displace Bill from being the top billionaire.
You probably would also have seen him as a member, or much more, a crypto enthusiast: there are many sides to his coin. And for Elon Musk, we won’t be wrong if we attribute the tag — a family name. But for a while, Musk who is well-known as a super-tweeter — or what the average Nigerian man would refer to as an influencer — began to exert his influence more when his place transited into one of the bigger influences on the platform by buying Twitter when it wasn’t for sale, and emerging as the new CEO. Even though it wasn’t a smooth journey devoid of hassles and court proceedings, it seemed as though his deal was irresistible, and the Twitter team couldn’t hold back the hesitancy to sell off to him. And between now and then, Musk changed his mind multiple times after some legal skirmishes, the deal became complete, and not long after, the bird became free.
However, lately, he has been the subject of many conversations, of course, which revolve around Twitter, and his place as the new CEO. There are many questions. But before these, it is no gainsaying that Musk who has a knack for ‘unusual things’ is well acclaimed for his huge following on Twitter, and this could be interpreted in many ways.
Could be an unusual love or obsession for the social networking app, that morphed into a quest for ownership, or a means to an intended end. Going back in time, this story dates back to April when Elon began to raise his concerns about the bluebird app, proposing a possible takeover. According to him,
Twitter needed to be taken private to grow and become a platform for free speech, and this was the beginning of the beginning.
Upon his installment as CEO, he fired several executives and top employees among who were Parag Agrawal, who succeeded Jack Dorsey as Twitter CEO, and Chief Financial Officer, Ned Segal. Vijaya Gadde, the company’s policy chief whom Musk had publicly criticized, was also ousted. Sean Edgett, the general counsel, is gone too. As an ‘unexpected’ and bossy move, this has generated a couple of reactions from the staff and also, the public. But are we correct when we call it a sudden or thoughtless decision?
At some point before the purchase, Musk joined a virtual conversation with Twitter employees and attempted to answer their questions about the future of the company and platform. His answers were about wanting to emulate some social networking apps like WeChat and TikTok, and also, stating that employees working from home can help Twitter attract 1 billion users.
During the conversation, he gave a hint that layoffs would be pivotal in building this Twitter he desires, and this he did almost immediately after resuming office. However, this begs the question. Could he have done better? Could he have waited a little more time? “Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately, there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required,” he tweeted after the layoff. And this shows that Elon is resolute enough about his decision. There’s more yet to unfold and remember, be quick to hear, and slow to speak.
Should the Bird be freed?
It’s quite interesting to see Musk’s transition: someone who sometimes tweets ‘damaging’ and controversial stuff about Twitter then, emerges to be the CEO. That seems unusual, and also may be a pointer to the fact that he has some personal agenda he would like to give expression to through Twitter, and prominent among these is his free speech policy. Elon is a self-acclaimed free-speech crusader, who sought to buy Twitter to defeat the company’s content restriction policy. And as a result, we might expect a lot of changes that would give more room for free speech, one of which is to make the edit button now accessible for all users as opposed to Twitter Blue users. He also claimed he will change the way Twitter’s moderation works, potentially relaxing the kinds of policies that saw former President Donald Trump permanently banned from the platform.
However, this seems to not sit well with a couple of former staff and even, the US government. In a recent campaign, the US President, Joe Biden, claims that Musk went ahead to buy a platform that spews lies around the world. But, it’s not surprising. Musk seems to always give a hint about his moves, as he tweeted a video clip of him entering the Twitter San Francisco headquarters carrying a kitchen sink. LET THAT SINK IN.
One which has generated more controversies and different standpoints is the new rules, particularly about the new verification standards for users. He announced that a new version of Twitter Blue will make verification accessible for $8 per month in the US, with the price “adjusted by country proportionate to purchasing power parity.”
And he doesn’t seem to be going back on this decision, as he said in his tweet “Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit”, accompanied by a couple of memes to solidify his claim. According to Elon, Twitter Blue comes with several perks: priority in replies, mentions, and search, which Musk proposes are “essential to defeat spam/scam”, the ability to post long videos and audio, and half as many ads among others.
Before this point, Twitter Blue has been a very different service, which wasn’t tied to being a verified user or not. It cost $4.99 a month, and its main offerings were the ability to read ad-free articles, undo or edit tweets (in some countries), and customize your navigation bar. It also lets you set an NFT as your profile picture. Also, he says this will give the company “a revenue stream to reward content creators,” but he hasn’t shared details of what those rewards for creators might look like in practice. And it doesn’t seem Musk is going back on this decision, however, it’s important to explore the sides of this verdict.
In a tweet replying to Stephen King, Musk says Twitter cannot rely on advertisers alone, the bills have to be paid, and why $8 comes in. Before Musk’s leadership, the blue tick has only being limited to a subset of high-profile users to ensure authenticity and avoid misinformation by parody accounts. We do not know what still comes around for Musk, however, we know in parts.
However, a few things are certain, and many other questions to be asked. Musk is a top billionaire, and we can be right to say he isn’t buying Twitter to make himself rich. To him, Twitter is a means to achieve several ends which we are beginning to see play out, and also, probably to affirm again that those who control the universe; the world powers, are those who can influence our decisions.
Also reemphasizes the fact that Twitter becoming a private company under Musk is open to a lot of political problems, and can Musk, considering the totality of his personality, belief system, and cultural disposition handle this? He also talked about using Twitter to create “X, the everything app.”
This is a reference to China’s WeChat app, which started life as a messaging platform but has since grown to encompass multiple businesses, from shopping to payments and gaming, and he, Musk has defined success by recreating WeChat through Twitter. There is a lot, however, one thing is sure, there is a lot more to expect.