It’s a recurrent theme in dystopian science fiction novels: the richest man on Earth controls the world’s largest news platform.
sounds familiar? it is because it is become a reality in recent weeks,
Elon MuskThe Twitter operetta has become a breadwinner for news organizations, reporting on the ways their acquisitions have affected the company’s operations.
But the consequences of taking Twitter private are likely to spread beyond the platform’s own functionalities and features, potentially affecting global news flows.
Can the world’s richest man use the world’s most influential news platform to his advantage?
a bird caught in a tornado
Since then the acquisition was confirmed Late last month, Twitter entered into an operational storm that severely affected the platform’s business and infrastructure.
Thursday evening hundreds of employees decided not to comply with Musk’s request to join “Twitter 2.0”, effectively handing in his resignation and joining lay off 7500 employees In recent weeks by Kasturi.
Musk’s Twitter cleanup has left the company running on a wireframe workforce, jeopardizing the platform’s ability to continue as business as usual.
“For better or worse. Twitter is an important disaster communication tool, and we have no replacement,” says Ashish ParasharGlobal Chief Marketing Officer r/gaOne of the largest advertising agencies in the world.
Parashar worries about the consequences that an inactive Twitter world could have in a time of regional, national and global crisis.
But Musk’s purge has had a deeper impact than the turmoil of recent weeks. His changes at the company have the power to deeply impact the company’s position as the digital public square of the 21st century.
Musk dissolved the company’s board and fired top executives, including the CEO, amid several layoffs. Parag AgarwalCFO ned segal and Head of Legal Affairs and Policy Vijaya Gadde,
Musk has become the undisputed commander-in-chief of Twitter, and in that role, he wields a power that is in many ways greater than what could be achieved through luck alone.
Twitter as a public square of the web
Back in April Musk said, “Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where issues important to the future of humanity are debated.”
Yet by becoming the sole director of the platform, Musk could become a threat to the same freedom of speech principles he claims to defend.
according to a recent study According to Pew Research, Twitter is the most used social media platform by journalists and people in the media.
The platform is widely used by journalists as the “newspaper of newspapers”, where the day’s main topics are decided by a series of algorithms, allegedly built to reflect real-world issues. has gone.
Twitter has also taken on the role of a “digital town square”: a place where exchanges between influential figures are made public, which have a wide influence on the formation of public opinion across demographic groups.
R/GA’s Parashar says, “Where Twitter has a lot of power is that unlike any other social network, people can interact directly with their elected officials, and can be trusted to speak directly to those individuals.” Have been.”
The platform has also become a major tool for political action, says Jonathan Bertrandfounder and creator of social media case managementOne who advocates healthy use of social media Social Media Research Institute,
“We see people use it to get their news and to mobilize for political action and social issues, such as during the Arab Spring uprisings, to help with protests and to share information,” says Bertrand.
In Parashar’s words, “Twitter has also helped topple governments.”
In 2021, Twitter, Facebook meta And Google google came under the scrutiny of Congress for their role as major distributors of information.
Based on the size of its user base, Twitter serves a public purpose. While the company has always remained for-profit, its status as a public company leaves it more open to public scrutiny, as exchange-listed companies are obligated to report on quarterly operations.
By taking Twitter private, Musk gained the power to close the blinders on what’s going on inside its offices, which could cause concern for those who view the platform as a provider of public services.
The Risks of Elon-Owned, Musk-Run Twitter
Musk’s purchase of Twitter isn’t the first time a billionaire has spent a significant portion of his wealth in the name of free speech.
Back in 2013, the founder of Amazon jeff bezos Purchased The Washington Post in an effort to keep the veteran newspaper out of bankruptcy. The cost of the acquisition was $250 million, roughly 1% of Bezos’ $25 billion fortune at the time.
Yet Musk’s Twitter bid can hardly be compared to Bezos’ newspaper purchases. Musk is estimated to have invested about $33 billion of his own capital in the purchase of Twitter, which is 18% of his $181 billion fortune.
His motives may be purely altruistic, but it could also be the case that Musk intends to exploit his control over the platform for his own personal gain, and the success of his projects, which include electric vehicle manufacturers. Tesla Inc TSLA and space exploration company SpaceX.
Bertrand says, “Anyone who controls a forum for users to share their thoughts and feelings on current events can change what types of content or hashtags are allowed to be shared and that content How far can it go?”
There is no consensus on what changes Musk plans to make on his new Twitter. But there’s nothing technically stopping him from manipulating which hashtags or voices are amplified and which are left as background noise.
According to r/GA’s Parashar, Musk’s goals are ideological in nature. He says that Musk and his supporters believed that “the global geopolitical arena was becoming [affected] Too much ‘woke’ ideology and censorship to “and want to fix it” restoring voices that were previously banned for good reasons.
However, it remains to be seen whether Twitter will make any major changes to its content algorithm in the near future.
“The filtering of harmful content is nothing new; However, if we see that opinions about Musk’s projects have been censored, we should worry about what else we are not being told,” says Bertrand.
Conversely, Musk could use the platform to increase exposure through advertising and weighted exposure to his projects, he says.
Parashar has deep concerns for Musk-controlled Twitter.
“Musk got angry at AOC and made his account disappear for one evening,” he says, in reference to the Congresswoman’s account history. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez The MP disappeared from the stage after getting into a public spat with Musk. he joked that it was a “naked abuse of power.”
Parashar says, “Ultimately, we are dealing with the fact that social engineering through control of the information environment is an inevitable reality – the only question is who has the means and the moral right to do it.”