opinion | The richest man in the world decides to set fire to $ 44 billion


As advertisers on Twitter rush for the exits, it appears that the world’s richest man has decided to set his $44 billion investment on fire.

Some would say Elon Musk, who became the official new owner of Twitter last week, is feeling buyer’s remorse. But that means he did it wanted thing before he buys it. Back in April, the mercurial billionaire made an expensive takeover offer, which he then tried to back off.

It is perhaps understandable that Twitter has been plagued by problems for years, both critical and ethical. When Musk made his presentation, tech stocks were already plummeting, and it was clear that he had neither a plan to reform the company nor the inclination to throw away a significant portion of his fortune to find out. After some legal backtracking, he reluctantly agreed to complete the $44 billion acquisition.

Now Musk, who’s also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX (which doesn’t seem like she should be working entirely part-time), is trying to figure out what to do with his new game.

He has already begun to pursue some controversial changes. They include charging users for “blue check” badges, as well as developing a new paid video feature, which will likely be used for “adult” materials. But his more disruptive moves include concurrent plans to A) less police content, while B) increase ad revenue.

These goals are somewhat opposing.

Musk has long complained of censorship on Twitter, including the suspension of high-profile accounts (such as that of former President Donald Trump) and other users accused of hate speech or baseless conspiracy theories (the latter being something Musk sometimes trades). For this reason, his takeover has been welcomed by absolutists of free speech as well as racists, Holocaust deniers, and other hat-wearers who claim they were”no shadeOr muffled for too long.

Look, I’m not going to pretend that finding the right degree of content moderation is an easy task. Humans can’t agree on what counts as “misinformation”, so it’s very difficult to teach an algorithm to recognize it. One man’s false news is another man’s freedom of speech. Allowing more offensive, discolored or questionable tweets will turn some users off, but banning them will anger other users (and some lawmakers) as well.

Musk made it clear that it would allow more content that would otherwise have been cleared and penalized by Twitter employees — which is probably an easier strategy to implement if you’re considering laying off half of your workforce.

Even before it appeared that any concrete new content policy had been implemented, hordes of trolls and fanatics had already begun testing the barriers of protection. In the 12 hours after Musk’s final purchase, usage of the n-word on Twitter jumped nearly 500 percent, according to the Princeton-based Network Contagion Research Institute.

Advertisers, Twitter’s primary source of income, are concerned about these developments, and what the platform might look like in the Musk era. Adidas may not want its logo to appear alongside, for example, anti-Semitic tweets. (If you don’t believe me, ask Kanye West, now known as Ye.) Family-friendly brands probably aren’t eager to show up alongside porn either.

IPG and Havas Media, two multinational advertising firms, have advised clients to pause spending on Twitter for the time being, and the IPG-owned consultancy reports that most clients surveyed plan to take the recommendation.

Some consumer brands have already done so, including General Motors (one of Tesla’s competitors). The Financial Times, citing internal sources, reported Wednesday that L’Oréal has also suspended its advertising spending on the platform; The company then issued a statement saying it had made “no decision” about Twitter ads.

But one can understand why the global cosmetic and hair-care giant might feel conflicted about this issue: Skinheads probably don’t buy a lot of shampoo, but they may be Be in the market for a new sunscreen.

Musk’s initial response to advertisers’ concerns was to reassure brands that Twitter would not turn into a “free for all hellscape(In hindsight, what he thinks.) When this strategy didn’t work, he tried to bully them online to get around them. In a Twitter poll Spread On Wednesday, he asked his followers whether advertisers should support “freedom of speech” or political “rightness.” “

It is hard to imagine the success of this strategy. Target, Pepsi, and the like either think it’s a good use of their advertising money to share a platform with neo-Nazis and the like, or it’s not. All of this reminds me a bit of recent progressive attempts to scold companies for lowering their prices, rather than changing the incentives those companies face.

Musk and the Democratic Party may not have much in common these days. But perhaps they can relate to this common experience: they are both learning how difficult it is to shame companies by doing something that is not in their financial best interest.

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