Written by Aaron Parmley
South African, serial entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk acquired the social media giant Twitter in a shock deal that concluded at beginning of last week, amounting to an estimated £44 billion pounds.
Elon Musk has already dissolved the director’s board, has become the sole CEO of the company, and is said to be planning to fire over 75% of employees across the business.
Like him or loathe him, one thing we can agree on is this was by no means a deal met with apathy; Sparking hysteria on the left and largely praise on the right for his very public stance on freedom of speech.
However, what do we truly know about Musk’s plans for Twitter, and most importantly what does it mean for you?
Musk was born on the 28th of June 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa. His father is the owner of an emerald mine and his mother is a model and dietitian. He would get a taste for success early on when at 12 he sold a game he’d programmed to a computer magazine for a sizable $500. Not bad for someone too young to hold a paper round.
This would prove to be the first in a string of entrepreneurial ventures alongside his brother Kimbal. Those range from opening a nightclub out of a ten-bedroom fraternity house to launching an online banking service, and of course his most renowned automotive company Tesla, which has forced a global shift in consumption of hybrid and electric vehicles.
What could the World’s wealthiest man possibly gain from the acquisition of Twitter?
A company that only began turning a profit five years ago, despite launching in March of 2006. Is this about money? His ego? Or is he truly invested in making the platform fairer?
Musk came out in late April stating: “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”.
The statement was timely, coming after spouts of censorship on Twitter had been met with backlash for being in clear breach of the first amendment (freedom of expression).
The most prolific case in this instance was the banning of Ex-President Donald Trump from the platform whilst still in office in January of 2021, following the Capitol attack which he encouraged.
Another notable and perhaps more contentious example of censorship arose after Twitter’s suppression of an extremely damaging New York Post article. It exposed a purported meeting between then-Vice President Joe Biden and Burisma advisor Vadym Pozharskyi in the run-up to the 2020 election, a conversation that he claimed had never happened.
These points raised, irrespective of one’s political stance it is clear Twitter is not a “digital town square” that operates with the same constitutional laws as the United States and it will suppress individuals of publishers in order to protect their own special interests.
Belgian member of the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt responded to Musk’s statement on free speech with this. “Fundamentally I agree with Elon Musk, especially on making the algorithms open source, fighting spam bots, and authentication of all humans. But will he keep his Word? In the end, will money prevail over free speech or not?”.
Verhofstadt raises a great point, Musk can talk the talk however he is under no legal obligation to ensure the constitutional integrity of the platform. Further to this point if he, like the previous board members at Twitter, were to have special interests or ulterior motives at stake, could he too hinder free speech in the perusal of his own narrative?
The EU has also highlighted its position with EU Industry Chief Theirry Breton tweeting “In Europe, the bird will fly by our EU rules,”. (Source – Reuters)
Here are three more elements Musk hopes to clean up on the platform:
- Authenticating all humans
- Defeating spam bots
- Making algorithms open source
What we do know, however, is that the deal will in principle make your life more expensive as a business owner.
Musk came out in late April stating “Twitter may charge a “slight” fee for commercial and government users”. This is expected to be under the Twitter Blue service which will charge a relatively small monthly fee of $3.00 to users for verification of their personal or business accounts. This $3.00 verification fee however may also save you money in the long run ensuring you can separate bots from bonafide profiles, thus focusing your time when replying to messages and tweets more effectively.
In short, for now, at least it’s unlikely the day-to-day user will see a huge amount of change in the site’s functions. What does happen say 5-10 years down the line however could be a completely different story and fundamentally, the total shareholder status being in the hands of one man does innately create risks that may have not previously arisen with a larger pool of shareholders.
For now, however, rest assured your business’s status is in safe hands on the platform.