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So, it’s official the world’s richest man (with a net worth of over $200 billion) has rattled the bird’s nest and appointed himself as Chief Twit. It was a radical move by the Tesla CEO and a supposed bid to reclaim the reins of free speech in the digital town square. The proposition is still poised to be fully articulated and it remains to be seen exactly what this grand acquisition will actually entail.
For now, we do have a few indicators and first steps to interpret. Elon has wasted no time in setting the wheels in motion for a widespread overhaul, attempting to bring advertisers back onside and enforcing a new standard for content moderation. Let’s take a closer look at his first actions as Lord of the Squawkers.
An Unpredictable Beginning
One thing you can always count on with Musk is that he’s going to surprise you. Far be it from us to anticipate the movements of a multi-billionaire posing as the incarnation of Marvel’s Tony Stark. Since buying the massive social media platform, Musk has already axed droves of staff, proposed a subscription charge for user verification and set about transforming the service for future users. And, if his own account is anything to go by, engagement in Twitter has never spiked higher.
His first move was to begin the gruelling Friday business of sacking about 50% of the platform’s 7,500-strong workforce. Musk claimed that Twitter was haemorrhaging money and needed to be righted onto a ‘healthy path’. Previously, Musk had raised around $13 billion to acquire the company, which apparently lost up to $221 million last year. No surprise then that the first call of business was to cut cost costs and drive up those annual revenue figures (around $5 billion in 2021).
So Long Executives
Since former chief executive, Parag Agrawal, cleared out his nest, Musk has dissolved the board and become Twitter’s sole director. Chair, Bret Taylor, was dismissed with the likes of Ned Segal (chief financial officer) and numerous other executives sequestered in takeover limbo.
The Blue Tick
Next order of business was a change to verification – wielding the coveted blue tick more commonly associated with celebrities and parodied accounts of public interest. As part of his effort to make the company profitable, Musk is about to charge users for the privilege of verification. There are around 230 million people firing tweets out on a daily basis. Only 420,000 have the tick, which will likely soon be associated with the platform’s new premium service, Twitter Blue. Musk dismissed the previous blue checkmark anointment as a ‘lords and peasants system’.
What To Do With All That Content?
Imagine overseeing all the tirades, vitriol and clumsy satire that pours into the platform. Content moderation is an essential component of company policies. The new council will convene and devote several weeks to instating a new process for staving off waves of gnarly trolls and spoffish imposters. Many feared the loosening of restrictions would tangle us all up in a hate speech bloodbath. According to the head of safety, there were around 50,000 tweets that seized the moment and piped up with hateful content. Account reinstatement plans are also a hot topic – will Donald Trump be invited back to the party?
What Else Is New?
Musk has also been sharing polls on his accounts, floating other ideas to his 115-million followers. One suggestion was to bring back Vine and allow the sharing of six-second videos that would appeal to the TikTok era. There were around 5-million responses and 70% voted in favour of bringing the app back onboard. On the other hand, Musk seems open to the idea of charging for video content and hiding some posts behind a paywall.
As expected Musk arrived to his overhaul party with a band of software engineers and Tesla specialists. Other employees of Neuralink and the Boring Company were brought in as well. Backed by his army of coders and loyalists, Musk is now tasked with the tall order of having to placate disgruntled advertisers, quell the tides of hourly abuse and transform that caged, raggedy, blue bird into something that flies.