The Power Plant | 24 hours after entering the company, Musk has turned twitter into a “crazy bird”

Reporter Tang Yitao

Edited by Gao Yulei

Musk walked around Twitter’s offices with a sink, chatted cordially with employees, and found time to tweet so the world would know. He was swearing some kind of sovereignty.

Two days later, Twitter was owned by Musk.

Two days before the deadline to acquire Twitter, Musk visited Twitter’s offices in San Francisco. |Image credit: Elon Musk

This marks the end of an eight-month long tug-of-war between Musk and Twitter. He first tried to buy the company, then he backed out, then he bought it, then he backed out. In the end, he bought it anyway.

On his first day in office, Musk fired four executives, including the CEO. It is said that at least two of them were sent away from the former division by security guards. In this newly acquired company, Musk has shown absolute dominance.

What does Twitter mean to Musk?

Besides being richer, what separates Musk from other billionaires is that he owns a large social media company. Secondly, there are hundreds of millions of people who are his followers on this social media.

Science historian Professor Iwan Morus has written about “tech disruptors” like Musk. “The inventor, the man who created the future, is a breaker—he’s different, he’s a disruptor,” he says. There’s a powerful appeal to that notion. Musk’s quest to disrupt the auto industry and his quest to save the planet has helped him establish such a figure in the public imagination.

Image is important to all public figures, but few other billionaires are as good at using social media to shape their image and improve their company’s finances as Musk. In a way, it’s Musk’s greatest asset.

The technology media Vox interviewed more than a dozen Musk’s former fans – who have now lost their fans of Musk. There are a variety of reasons, but one big one is that the real-life Musk has not lived up to the surreal image he has long displayed.

For eight months, his capricious and emotional statements on social media have damaged his public image. Negative impressions of Musk among Democratic and Republican voters rose 22 percent and 8 percent, respectively, from April to June, according to a poll by research firm Morning Consult.

Faced with such a new CEO, some people are beginning to worry.

Thierry Bretton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, has warned Musk that he will have to comply with new EU digital regulations. “In Europe, birds fly by our rules,” Mr Breton wrote on Twitter, along with a picture of the European flag.

He was referring to the EU’s Digital Services Act, which will come into force in 2024. The decree states that big tech companies will be required to have robust content moderation systems in place to ensure they can quickly take down illegal material such as hate speech, incitement to terrorism and child sexual abuse. If they violate the rules, the company could be punished by a judge of 6% of global annual income.

Musk said he would not allow illegal content to appear on the platform.

But at the same time, Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist.” He has strongly criticized Twitter’s previous leadership’s overly rigid policies and said he would work to overturn some key enforcement mechanisms, such as account suspensions indefinitely. The most famous example of this is former US President Donald Trump.

Twitter has struggled in the past to rein in hate speech, political misinformation and incitement to violence on the platform. Twitter previously suspended Trump’s account indefinitely after his tweets directly instigated the Jan. 6 unrest in Congress.

But Musk has said he will restore Trump’s account. He told the Financial Times in May this year: “Banning Trump from Twitter doesn’t end Trump’s voice. It will amplify that among the right, which is why it is morally Wrong, and downright stupid.”

Trump responded to Musk on social media Truth. After being banned from Twitter, he created the social media himself in an attempt to continue his influence on Twitter. But he currently has only 4.4 million followers on Truth and 32.56 million on Twitter.

He said he was “very happy that Twitter is now in the hands of sane people” and that Twitter “will no longer be run by radical left lunatics who truly hate our country.” The lunatics he was referring to were the executive team that Musk had fired. Among them, former security chief Vijaya Gadde led the blocking of Trump’s account.

Opponents tried to warn Musk of his actions. London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “Any decision to allow suspended users to return must be made very carefully and must be made directly with experts against digital hate and disinformation. consultation.”

Therèse Coffey, the UK’s environment secretary, also said it would be “concerning” if the deregulation of content led to a proliferation of hate speech on the platform.

Some racist remarks have quickly fermented on Twitter. One tweet posted a video praising Nazi Germany and was liked more than 400 times; new accounts have started using swastikas as avatars and retweeting Musk and anti-Semitism; one full text read “Niggers ” has been retweeted more than 120 times, liked more than 600 times, and has not been deleted 5 days after it was posted.

According to an earlier Wall Street Journal report, more than a dozen clients of one agency have ordered all advertising on Twitter to be suspended if Trump returns to Twitter. Because it’s a complete departure from the “brand safety” principle that advertisers care most about, which is having ads appearing on questionable sites, or next to objectionable user-generated content.

There are also some auto industry advertisers also expressed concern. Because in addition to being the boss of Twitter, Musk is also the CEO of Tesla. They worry that Twitter will leak customer data to Tesla in the background.

In 2021, 89% of Twitter’s $5.08 billion in revenue will come from advertising. In order to appease advertisers, Musk released an open letter on Twitter, saying that it would not make Twitter “a hell where everyone can wreak havoc” and “people of different faiths can debate each other in a healthy way.”

Musk, who says he bought Twitter to help humanity, did not explain how it decides what is healthy and what is unhealthy, and how it would differ from Twitter’s current approach.

In Musk’s plan, he wants to make Twitter a super app like WeChat: “In China, you basically live on WeChat because it’s very useful and helpful in your daily life. I think, If we can do that, or even get close to WeChat, it will be a huge success.”

It’s not an easy task, especially with the panic inside Twitter. Musk had previously announced that he would lay off 75% of Twitter’s workforce, or about 5,000 employees, but soon announced the cancellation of the plan.

This capriciousness confuses employees. One employee told Vox that everyone he knew at the company “has either left or is planning to leave.”

Twitter engineer Manu Cornet used a cartoon to describe Twitter’s current internal mood | Image: twittoon

From the perspective of human civilization, Musk is trying to make Twitter a “digital square” where everyone can speak healthily. But for now, the square may not even have the blueprints planned.