Elon Musk’s the topic du jour, once again, as his teased takeover of Twitter has come to its inevitable end.
It’s a done deal: the world’s richest man has purchased Twitter. Cue the Imperial March.
While we’re all waiting to see what happens now, it’s worth speculating on what the ramifications of the soon-to-be completed takeover could mean.
Here’s what we know so far:
- Musk intends to take the company private.
- He intends to change Twitter’s moderation practices.
Twitter is currently a publicly-traded company, but it’s almost certainly going to be in Musk’s best interests to take the company private ASAP.
Firstly, Musk, or whoever ultimately ends up in charge of Twitter (we’ll talk more about that in the “conspiracy theories” section of this article later), won’t have to file quarterly financial reports if the company’s private.
In other words: this means they can screw things up as much as they want, lose a bunch of users and tank profits, and public shareholders can’t hold them accountable.
Taking the company private would also mean it doesn’t have to file earnings reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), AKA, Musk’s mortal enemy.
As to what this means for the current board, we can only assume Musk will ouster them. But let’s be clear: there’s no telling what the world’s richest man will do with his new toy.
Even our wildest speculation could wind up underwhelming in the face of the impending outcome.
But, just in case, let’s take things a step further.
Once the company is private, whoever owns it can do pretty much whatever they want with it.
I’m being careful to say “whoever owns it,” because it’s quite possible that Musk didn’t purchase Twitter for himself.
In fact, we can be certain he didn’t use his own cash (all his money is reportedly tied up in stock anyway) and he specifically stated he’d “secured funding” to purchase the social network.
It’s genuinely possible he’s part of a larger team who’ll want to have a say in day-to-day company operations. Maybe he’ll ultimately end up in control or play the role of CEO. Maybe he’ll chair a board of his own design.
It’s also conceivable he could turn around and sell Twitter to someone else. It doesn’t seem likely, as $46 billion is a lot of money to anyone on the planet.
But, there’s potentially a made-for-Hollywood scenario where Musk colludes with someone the Twitter board would never consider selling to in order to broker an insidious shadow takeover.
Who could this mysterious figure be? Jack Dorsey? Donald Trump? Jeff Bezos? Mark Zuckerberg?
Sure, why not? In this wild theory it could be anyone. Let’s add Kanye West to the mix as well.
Anything’s possible when Elon Musk is involved. Until we see the paperwork on the deal, all bets are off.
What about the elephant in the room?
There’s also the issue of the former President of the United States of America being banned from the “town square.”
Trump supporters are practically apoplectic at the thought of seeing their favorite POTUS returned to his glorious place atop the Twitterverse.
Unfortunately, as Musk’s made no public mention of rescinding any past Twitter violations, we have no way of knowing his intentions concerning Donald Trump or any other banned MAGA luminaries.
Here’s everything Musk had to say in the official press release:
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. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.
There’s nothing there to indicate that Trump should reinstall the app, but there’s a pretty good chance Musk isn’t done talking about the deal today.
Our best guess: 50/50, it’s too close to call.
Okay, here’s one more conspiracy theory before we move on: Elon Musk declares himself the president of Twitter and crowns Jack Dorsey as its CEO. Only, they’ll have ridiculous titles like “Doge Lord” and “Executive Change Implementer” or something.
👑 <—- you drop that Techno?
— jack⚡️ (@jack) April 24, 2022
We’ve reached out to Twitter for comment and will update this article if we hear back.
What happens next?
In one version of the future, Musk makes radical changes across the entire app. He makes good on his promises of eliminating bots and he makes Twitter an app where all speech within the legal limits is considered free speech.
This sounds great but, in practice, it might effectively stifle the free speech of anyone who isn’t willing to take discourse to the limit.
On the other hand, perhaps he has a legitimate plan to match his ambition. Maybe he invented a new mode of discourse.
In a different version of the future — perhaps a more likely one — Elon takes his hand at helming Twitter and runs into the same problem that every social media network has: content moderation is really hard. He eventually gives up and puts someone else in charge until the company ultimately goes public again.
There’s no realistic scenario in which millions of educators, academics, scientists, and global politicians continue to use a platform where speech is limited only by what’s considered criminal in the US.
That means we’re bound to see some form of content moderation. It’s easy to imagine Musk as the savior who’ll swoop in and figure out the secret sauce that keeps the spirit of free speech alive while also allowing for free debate and the freedom of expression.
But, if Musk thinks teaching a car to drive itself is hard, wait until he tries to keep a social network afloat when tens of millions of trolls suddenly find out they’ve been let off the leash.
Chances are, Twitter’s about to go through some severe identity crisis before it eventually lands on its feet a bit worse for wear.
The question is: who’ll be in charge then, and will they have a user base left?