It is hard to accept financial constraints and outside scrutiny when you have hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth and act more on instinct than reality. Twitter has already started laying staff, and advertisers are fleeing the platform in droves. Are Twitter’s best days behind it?
We are lost. We need brilliant people to step up and solve the most significant problems. We could do with a genius at the helm of this crazy old world. One person, a true legend. The type who could invent the electric car while casually being a rocket scientist, a champion who would revolutionize online life and make real-life traffic vanish.
Elon Musk masquerades as such a hero. A tech millionaire, Musk founded Tesla and, with help from taxpayers’ money, has sold plenty of electric cars and become a billionaire. He’s the wealthiest man in the world and employs many rocket scientists to indulge his obsession with space travel.
The law of large numbers made it inevitable that the tech giants would mature. Sales growth in the last quarter slowed to 9%—barely above inflation. As they have grown more significant, they have become tied to the economic cycle, a fact that the digital surge during the pandemic only temporarily masked. Penetration rates for smartphones, digital advertising, and streaming are plateauing. With slowing core businesses, the giants are venturing onto each other’s turf, increasing competition.
Meta, the owner of Facebook, is run increasingly erratically by Mark Zuckerberg. Its value has dropped by 74% this year. IPG and Havas Media, both multinational advertising companies, have advised clients to pause spending on Twitter for the time being until they see where Twitter is going. In contrast, the use of the “N” word has increased by 500% since Musk’s buyout.
Just because you’re wealthy doesn’t mean you aren’t a jerk. Musk uses his massive platform and other sources of power to do bad things.
Online, those things have included:
Claiming in March 2020 that people worried about the coronavirus were “dumb“
Predicted on March 19, 2020, the U.S. would have close to zero new cases by the end of April.
Questioning the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines and baselessly asserting that there were quite a few adverse reactions.
Likening Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler
Saying the U.S. government shouldn’t provide subsidies to companies after receiving billions in subsidies from the U.S government.
Tweeting misogynistic things at Senator Elizabeth Warren because she said he should pay more in taxes
Writing to Bernie Sanders, who also thinks the wealthiest man in the world should pay more in taxes”, “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive.
Tweeting dumb, sexist jokes
Musk has said that Twitter should avoid getting involved in content regulation. Given his documented history of spreading misinformation, attacking his perceived enemies, and retaliating against individuals he thinks have wronged him, it’s not hard to see why. Which is more than a little problematic to people who already think Twitter has a problem with misinformation and abuse (particularly towards women).
Musk claims he needs to rescue Twitter from its current owners, who he thinks do not respect the First Amendment. But, as many have pointed out, “no one has a legal right to tweet—that is, to post on Twitter, a platform owned by a private company.” For zillionaires who are unaware, the First Amendment is about protection from government entities restricting what people are allowed to say, not privately held social media networks. That’s how, for example, Musk can get away with allegedly firing Tesla employees who disagree with him. Whereas with Twitter, he wants to manipulate the idea of what “free speech” means and has suggested he’ll allow people to say whatever they want without consequence, even if what they want to say constitutes harassment or threats or the kind of misinformation that poses a genuine risk to people’s lives.
Musk is a joke taken much too seriously because of his wealth.