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Musk’s ascension leaves Twitter’s Indian operation on uncertain turf

Elon Musk’s acquisition of microblogging site Twitter has left experts guessing the next steps of the billionaire and the future for the social-media giant. Regarding Twitter’s India operations, experts note that Musk’s ascension adds a level uncertainty in how Twitter will deal with India’s strict rules on freedom of speech, right to anonymity and privacy. Market experts also note that Twitter’s ad revenues in India will shrink by 20-25 per cent in the medium term, although revenues are expected to return back to normal once the transition period is over.

After months of uncertainty Tesla founder Elon Musk is officially the owner of Twitter, closing a $44-billion acquisition deal. Drama still ensued as Musk promptly fired top Twitter CXOs, including CEO Parag Aggarwal; CFO Ned Segal, Head of Legal, Policy and Trust; and General Counsel, Sean Edgett on Day 1. Musk’s public commentary also indicates that the billionaire has disruptive plans for the social-media site, including potentially creating a super app, purging Twitter of all bot accounts and restoring President Donald Trump back on the platform. However, given the chaotic and contradictory nature of Musk’s commentary, experts are still uncertain regarding the direction Twitter will take in the future.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty, the Indian government expects Twitter to comply with the local laws of India. Reacting to Twitter’s acquisition, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, said: ”How does it matter to government who owns what. Our laws and rules are applicable to platforms regardless of who owns it or who doesn’t own it.”

Battle with govt
Twitter has been involved in a long battle with the Indian government over removal/blocking of content on the platform. The company recently moved the Karnataka High Court, seeking review and relief from “overbroad and arbitrary” content blocking orders from the government, alleging “disproportionate use of power”. On this, Musk had noted that Twitter had jeopardised one of its largest markets and should follow Indian laws.

Which is why experts and civil society organisations remiain uncertain regarding the direction Twitter will take now on the pending case in the Karnataka High Court. Prateek Waghre of Interent Freedom Foundation said: “Yes, Elon Musk had expressed reservations against Twitter’s lawsuit in the Karnataka, as per court filings. It remains to be seen, however, to what extent he will follow through on those reservations and what that means for Twitter’s legal challenge in the short term. However, it does add a layer of unpredictability at a time when there is already heavy emphasis on controlling speech on social media platforms.“

Internet Researcher, Srinivas Kodali, added: “Musk also has other business interests in India, including bringing Tesla to the Indian market, and Starlink, Musk’s satellite broadband company. It remains to be seen whether Musk will prioritise his business interests over resisting local laws. The Indian government is committed to regulate social-media companies, and Musk will have to take a call on how he addresses future clashes with the government.”

On the revenue side, Ajimon Francis, Managing Director at Brand Finance, expects advertiser-enthusiasm to cool off during the transition period for Twitter. “Musk knows how to build companies, however, he is still new to managing social-media businesses. There will be a learning curve, where advertiser revenue will shrink by 20-25 per cent for 3 to 6 months. However, Musk is a disruptor, once the product pipeline resumes, advertisers are likely to return,” Francis explained. The Hindu Business Line

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