After weeks of back and forth, Elon Musk just sealed a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. But big questions still remain about what direction the company will take under one of the world’s most eccentric and outspoken billionaires.
Tech entrepreneur Musk is galloping into the social media space after Twitter accepted his offer to buy the company. As its new owner, he will try to realize his vision for the social media platform by fixing what he considers to be its failures.
In making his “best and final offer” to buy Twitter earlier in April, Musk said he intended for it to reclaim its status as a “platform for free speech around the globe.” The offer came after he criticized Twitter’s censorship rules and the number of bots posting on the service.
Now that the deal has gone through, and Twitter is set to become private under Musk’s majority ownership, questions are being raised over what Twitter will look like, and what changes he plans to push through.
Will there be a softer stance on content moderation?
Musk’s biggest gripe with Twitter has been how the service moderates content, which he equates to stifling free speech.
Twitter’s new owner has previously spoken out against the company outright banning users who break rules, and instead has suggested a “time out.” He has said that he would ban only content that is illegal, but he hasn’t ruled on whether he would prohibit racism, harassment, and a number of other objectionable subjects.
Will Twitter get an “edit” button?
In early April, Musk polled his Twitter followers about whether they thought the platform should add an edit button that would let users fix typos in their posts and make other tweaks. The answer was a resounding yes, with 73.6% of respondents saying they wanted the feature.
During an onstage interview at the TED conference on April 14, Musk followed up on the poll by confirming his support for an edit button.
Twitter has already experimented with an edit feature for users who pay for its special “Blue” subscription, but Musk seems to want to make the ability to alter posts universal.
Will Twitter open-source its algorithm?
Also during the TED interview (and in another online poll), Musk mused that Twitter should open-source its algorithm. An open-source algorithm would make public the code Twitter uses to determine which tweets to promote and which to hide from users’ feeds. This change to Twitter’s software would also make visible the role of computer programs in moderating and policing content on the platform.
Conservatives, especially, are suspicious that Twitter’s algorithm is biased against them. Making the code public, in theory, would make the service more transparent—or as Musk put it, show that there is no “behind-the-scenes manipulation.” However, open sourcing an algorithm is more complicated and its nuances more difficult to understand than Musk let on during his interview.
Will Twitter have fewer scams?
One of Musk’s biggest grievances with Twitter has been the huge number of bots posting on the site and impersonating real people.
“If our twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying!” He tweeted recently.
Musk has promised to crack down on bots, make it easier for human users to become authenticated, and even eliminate the large number of crypto scams on the service, although he has yet to provide details about how he will reduce the problem.
Will the company focus more on subscription revenue?
Musk has said that he is not buying Twitter for the money, but he has signaled that he will be adjusting the company’s revenue model to focus less on ads, potentially putting more of an emphasis on subscriptions.
Musk suggested in a since-deleted tweet earlier this month that advertising should be removed for Twitter’s premium Blue users. And as Twitter has historically made 90% of its profit from ads, doing so would be a big change to the company’s revenue model.
Will banned users be allowed back?
Musk’s issues with Twitter censorship largely revolve around the idea that the company unilaterally bans any user it deems to have seriously violated its rules, including former President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots last year.
Whether Trump—or other banned users—would be allowed back to Twitter is still unclear, but it is definitely a possibility, and several Republicans and Trump family members have already begun celebrating the idea of the former president rejoining the platform.
Should Trump’s account be reactivated, it might also pave the way for other banned users to return, such as U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was banned in January after violating Twitter’s COVID-19 misinformation policy.
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