Tesla boss Elon Musk’s road to turning Twitter into a money-making platform where anyone can say anything seems daunting to experts.
Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy the global messaging platform still needs to be backed by shareholders and regulators.
And while Musk hasn’t provided details on how Twitter’s business side is run, he has expressed enthusiasm for dialing content moderation back to the legal minimum and making money from subscriptions.
“Apart from advocating for free speech, Musk did not specify what the platform might be,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi told AFP.
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“He hasn’t said if there’s an issue of Twitter’s age, a geographic disparity, which is the biggest competitor — what else is he thinking.”
Colin Sebastian, analyst at Baird Equity Research, said in a note to investors that Musk’s talk of eliminating Twitter’s advertising model for revenue, rather than subscriptions, seems unlikely.
“Elon Musk has the idea of eliminating the advertising revenue model,” Sebastian said.
“We struggle to believe that this will happen in its entirety, unless he plans to fund the interest payments on the debt out of his own pocket.”
Analysts suspect that while social media platforms like Facebook are free, Twitter users will flock to pay for premium content or features like retweeting posts. Musk may try to sell posts or ask other websites to pay for anything he uses from tweets.
Musk’s declared stance as a free speech absolutist also promises to undermine the advertising on which Twitter currently depends for revenue.
Analysts agreed that brands are against having their ads linked to controversial content, such as misinformation or posts that could harm the real world.
Lauren Walden of Tinuity digital marketing specialty firm said that the huge push in subscriptions is likely to reduce viewership on Twitter, as well as allowing more controversial posts to create a “toxic environment” that deters advertisers.
As Twitter struggles with profitability, Musk will be on the hook for huge interest payments from funding to buy the San Francisco-based company.
Meanwhile, US legislators are already threatening to amend a law that exempts Internet platforms from responsibility for what users post. They could have used the Musk-led Twitter as a poster child for the effort.
The academics noted that Musk’s talk of getting rid of “bots”, the software-powered accounts that fire posts, and verify user identities, stoked privacy concerns as well as the very right to free speech. claims, academics noted.
“Spam is a form of free speech,” said Duke University sociology professor Chris Bell.
“Some of Musk’s proposals may actually contradict each other.”
Changes to Musk’s plans for Twitter include making the software running the platform public, letting people see how posts are handled and even recommending tweaks.
Bell told AFP that making Twitter software “open source” could give users insight and control over the platform, but would instruct “rude actors” how to better spread their posts.
“Paradoxically, open-sourcing the platform can actually make it easier for trolls to dominate the platform,” Bell said.
Musk will take control of Twitter while running electric car maker Tesla; Tunnel-Drilling Enterprises The Boring Company; Private space exploration effort SpaceX and a Neuralink project to sync brains with computers.
“It looks like he’s accumulating CEO jobs,” quipped Rob Enderle, tech analyst at Enderle Group.
“Maybe with 10 she gets free coffee.”
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was heavily criticized for splitting his time running the digital payments firm Block, then called Square, while he was at the head of Twitter.
However, Musk is a proven success as a businessman and the richest man in the world.
“The only thing that gives me pause is that he has expertise in engineering firms, but Twitter isn’t really an engineering firm,” Bell said.
“It’s not about teaching yourself how to drive a car, it’s about serving people’s interests.” AFP