Deconstructing Musk's path forward at Twitter
Last week, the world's richest man, Elon Musk, bought Twitter for $44 billion, closing one of the highest-profile hostile takeovers in recent memory. Musk says he was originally motivated to buy Twitter after the platform allegedly participated in a conspiracy with political influencers, politicians, and media giants to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story first published by The New York Post in the fall of 2020.
Upon taking control of the company Thursday night, Musk immediately fired the top two executives in the company, CEO Parag Agrawal and CFO Ned Segal, who tried several times to block Musk's purchase of the company and, according to Musk, misled him and other investors about the numbers of real users and spam bots on the platform. Musk also terminated acting chief legal counsel Vijaya Gadde, who was at the top of the conspiracy to suppress the Hunter Biden story.
During all of this bloodletting, Musk did manage to make an ally in the company: Yoel Roth, a Twitter manager who, it seems, has thrown himself on his sword and shown Elon a shortcut to where all the bodies are buried. Aside from being on Gadde's team that opened a portal for liberals on the platform to directly alert her to damaging articles that they felt should be suppressed, like the Hunter Biden story, Roth also revealed to his new boss an internal communication, which Musk tweeted a picture of on Oct. 30, that says in part that the company's metrics were fraudulent and the corporate officers were "[l]iterally doing what Elon is accusing us of doing" in a memo dated May 17, 2022.
Wachtell & Twitter board deliberately hid this evidence from the court. Stay tuned, more to come … pic.twitter.com/CifaNvtRtt— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2022
Part of Musk's motivation to reveal his newfound affection for Roth was to quell the uproar from a previous tweet congratulating and supporting Roth in his new position as Twitter's head of safety and integrity. This drew outrage from the right because Roth has tweeted many times about his liberal views, going so far as to tweet that Donald Trump was a Nazi the day after his inauguration.
Musk acknowledged the past tweets, took responsibility for himself being one of the most controversial tweeters in the history of the platform, and said all political viewpoints would be respected going forward.
We’ve all made some questionable tweets, me more than most, but I want to be clear that I support Yoel. My sense is that he has high integrity, and we are all entitled to our political beliefs.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2022
Musk also announced that the coveted blue checkmarks, which in theory have designated that a tweet has been confirmed to have been sent by the name on the account, would now cost $8 a month in an attempt to eliminate fake bot accounts and the misinformation spread on the platform in the past. While the feudal system of blue checkmark lords and the millions of unverified serfs contemplated their potential status on the new virtual landscape, Musk quietly dropped what could be a golden nugget of information that seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Musk wants to radically change the way the publishers who are now using paywalls for revenue interact with those who wish to read or experience their content.
.@elonmusk describes the issue of reading articles with paywalls. In clips never shown before in our interview he alludes to the value of what Twitter can bring. He also talks about how the media wants to own their subscribers. @kgee @EliBurton_ 🎥 @klwtts pic.twitter.com/WsA2lUHo0S— Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) November 1, 2022
Instead of having users clicking on headlines that lead them to frustrating paywalls and leaving the site without reading the article or buying a subscription, which on the Twitter platform often motivates users to unfollow the publisher's account altogether, Musk wants to set up a micro-transaction economy wherein users would have the option to pay as little as ten cents to read a single article. These minuscule transactions might be conducted using DogeCoin, Musk's crypto-currency of choice. Publishers would get a small fee, possibly more traffic on their site in general, and users would get access to the desired content for a relatively small price. Musk believes that this business model will transform how users and publishers interact and eventually spread to other platforms as well.