Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover threatens already troubled company

December 10, 2022 — by Anthony Wang
Photo by Anthony Wang
Elon Musk bought the social media platform Twitter on Oct. 27.
After instating himself as CEO, Musk enacted several reforms meant to fix problems plaguing Twitter but ended up destabilizing the platform instead.

Elon Musk — the world’s richest man — recently closed his blockbuster purchase of social media service company Twitter. Immediately after, Musk fired former CEO Parag Agarwal and assumed the role himself.

For many, this represented a welcome change to a social media platform plagued by content moderation issues and financial troubles. But in reality, Musk’s takeover has proved to be nothing more than the conversion of Twitter to a personal toy on which Musk imposes his erratic and immature  leadership. In the end, these decisions fundamentally threaten to alienate both Twitter’s customers and their employee base, demonstrating that he should not be in charge of Twitter. 

The balance between free speech and content moderation on Twitter has long been a hotly debated issue. In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, former CEO Jack Dorsey was called to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in defense of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies like Twitter from liability for the content of posts on their platform. 

Following a mentality of relaxed enforcement, Twitter only took action to suspend blatant sources of falsehood after dramatic, public-backlash-inducing news. One such example of this is former president Donald Trump, who was only removed from the platform after the events of January 6.

So now that Musk is in charge, what does he plan to fix? Absolutely nothing. 

Calling himself a free speech absolutist, he has made it clear that he wanted less scrutiny to be placed on the messages put out on Twitter, making it a more toxic place.

For example, the amount of hate speech on Twitter immediately surged on Oct. 28 — the simple presence of the reckless and unserious Musk allowed racists, anti-Semites, misogynists, transphobes and conspiracy theorists to become louder. They feel safe with him in charge.

When Musk finally acted, they only served to emphasize the rashness of his choices. He lifted the ban on rapper and known anti-Semite Kanye “Ye” West, only to be forced to ban him again after he posted a picture of a swastika inside a Star of David. 

Together, these actions have caused several companies, most notably Apple, to reconsider running advertisements on Twitter. Even though many of these companies have resumed advertising, Musk’s actions of putting Twitter’s major revenue source at risk are irresponsible and do not constitute proper leadership.

Ironically, Musk has also tasked himself with fixing profit issues at Twitter, which has continued to lose money every year since its IPO (except for 2018 and 2019, which required ramping up video ads and cutting or selling nonessential services). Unsurprisingly, though, Musk’s attempts at increasing the company’s profits have done nothing but destabilize its core business. 

Musk introduced Twitter Blue, replacing the blue checkmark of verification with a subscription service at a rate of $8 per month for premium features, which include the coveted, eye-catching symbol. 

Twitter Blue quickly became a tool for trolls to impersonate and mock public figures and companies, despite implementation of a secondary verification system. In addition, Twitter Blue is projected to make less than $10 million a year, making hardly a dent in the nearly $200 million deficit Twitter had in 2021.

Musk has demonstrated a severe lack of foresight, seemingly incapable of realizing how turning Twitter’s old system of verifying high profile accounts into a paid service open to anyone could backfire. After confidently declaring that “comedy is now legal on Twitter,” he childishly lashed out at those who mocked him, demanding that they include “parody” in their account name due to confusion over which accounts are real and which accounts are satirical, a problem he created himself.

Musk’s impulsive behavior extends to his management of Twitter’s employees. Shortly after his acquisition of the company, Musk began to turn the employee hierarchy into an imitation of his other companies, creating a cult of personality in which only those who support his vision about Twitter’s future are allowed to stay. He imposed inhumane working hours on the employees and fired others on a whim for publicly disagreeing with him. Thousands have resigned or been laid off, while hundreds more are stuck as their work visas prevent them from quitting.

In the wake of a huge wave of worker resignation in search of jobs with better conditions and that are more fulfilling, dubbed the Great Resignation, Musk’s actions against Twitter engineers are callous, threatening the foundation of the company.

Musk further alienated those with a loyalty to the company in a company wide email on Nov. 16, explaining that the visionary design team will report directly to him, while everyone else will be relegated to menial programming. Essentially, only Musk and his cronies get to make decisions.

In addition, Musk doubled down on his bet that the “hard working” employees who were willing to stay would make up for those who were fired. These actions are nothing short of totalitarian; Musk has assumed the role of a dictator purging the ranks of the party to filter for only the most loyal supporters. It worked out great for Stalin; no doubt Musk will do well too.

With Musk taking over Twitter, there is no longer a case for responsibly using the social media app. Even the district has discontinued Twitter as a communications platform, and steps like this are not without reason. With Musk in charge, Twitter will continue to be an unprofitable platform full of hatred and discrimination.

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