Elon Musk's bid for Twitter feels like a rich man's tantrum

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  john-russell  •  one month ago  •  29 comments

By:   Navneet Alang (thestar. com)

Elon Musk's bid for Twitter feels like a rich man's tantrum
No company that is as vital to the functioning of modern societies should even be in a position to be snapped up by a billionaire, writes Navneet Alang.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



No company that is as vital to the functioning of modern societies should even be in a position to be snapped up by a billionaire, writes Navneet Alang.


The thing about being a billionaire is that when you are faced with a problem, you can just throw money at it.

So when Elon Musk this week made a bid for the ownership of Twitter, it felt a bit like a rich man's tantrum. Denied the opportunity to be on the board of the company, he instead played the role of a cartoonish rich man from cinema: "Well I'll just buy the damn thing then!"

As of writing this column, Musk's bid is still up in the air, and Twitter's board plans to fight it — assuming, of course, that the bid itself isn't just another publicity stunt or outburst from a notoriously unpredictable person.

Ostensibly, however, Musk's desire to buy Twitter stems from a desire to transform the company and, in his words, "unlock its potential" by focusing on some vague, undefined idea of "free speech" and to innovate by taking the company private.

Musk's understanding of free speech, however, particularly as it relates to online networks, is quite plainly childish; on the web, unmoderated spaces are profoundly unfree because they fill up with hate and harassment, silencing all but the loudest and most powerful — among whom Musk is clearly both.

But even if Musk's bid fails or is more simply disingenuous, the fact that someone could offer to buy Twitter is itself remarkable. No company that is as vital to the functioning of modern societies should even be in a position to be snapped up by a billionaire — yes, even if he is in fact the richest man in the world.

It betrays a deep problem both at and with Twitter. Recently, professor Scott Galloway put it succinctly in a blog post on Musk's machinations: "Twitter is among the most important products in history (real-time news source, global communications platform), yet it remains a lackluster investment."

For the sake of argument, let us put aside the question of whether a global communications platform should in fact be run by a single private company — and that, too, one clustered with all the other big tech companies on America's west coast.

Instead, Twitter's failure to capitalize on its enormous potential stems from a management that seems to misunderstand its own product, while also taking far too long to implement new features to make the service better.

Galloway's comment that Twitter is among the most important products in history requires some context, however. At around 200 million users, Twitter falls far shy of Facebook's massive three billion plus user base or TikTok's billion plus users.

But Twitter's import is much less about being the place that everyone gathers than it is a microcosm of public discourse. Although it has become popular to repeat the mantra "Twitter is not real life" — a reminder that Twitter is not broadly representative of 'the public' at large — that phrase also misses that Twitter has a massively outsize influence on culture at large because it is the vector through which announcements are made, debates are had, and the chattering classes hash out the issues of the day.

Its significance is thus much different from Facebook, but also arguably not lesser.

But Twitter's own management seems to undercut this importance. For one, those same so-called chattering classes refer to Twitter as "the hellsite," a nod to how mentally and emotionally draining the app can be to use. Acrimony is rife, harassment and drive-by insults are common, and the longer you use the site the worse it gets.

No, Twitter cannot itself control the polarization and disagreement that signify a healthy democracy — and nor should it. But it has been painfully slow to implement features that cut down on the bitterness on Twitter, whether the ability to remove oneself from conversations, limit who can reply to you, or who can see your tweets.

Similarly, the capacity of anyone with even a moderate following to cast a harsh light on a single outburst can encourage harassment and brigading, and the unwillingness of Twitter to allow for an easy way to delete tweets or create ephemeral ones only makes matters worse.

Put more simply, Twitter is a vital but miserable place, and the company that runs it seems bent on doing as little as it can to make it any better.

In a conversation at TED on Thursday after his bid, Elon Musk revealed he has a shockingly naive view of what would make Twitter better, amounting to little more than "people should say whatever they want."

It is quite plainly an inadequate, sophomoric understanding of the dynamics of online networks, spouted by a man who may have done much for clean electric cars but otherwise often pollutes the public sphere.

Unfortunately, Twitter's own management appears little better when it comes to making the social platform a better place — and it's why a know-nothing like Musk can at least try and swoop in and claim to want to fix what is nonetheless clearly broken.

Navneet Alang is a Toronto-based freelance contributing technology columnist for the Star.


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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    one month ago

I was watching Michael Smerconish's show on CNN this morning. For those who dont know Smerconish is a notorious "both sideser" who more often than not promotes the idea that moderates are the majority in America. Be that as it may, today Smerconish gushed over Elon Musk, claiming that Musk is a voice of "moderation" in politics and endorsing the idea of Musk taking over twitter. 

Smerconish asked his viewers to go to his website and vote in a poll on the question of whether or not Musk should buy Twitter. At the end of the show Smerconish announced the results of his poll, 29,000 people had voted , with 79% of them voting that Musk should not be allowed to control Twitter.  Smerconish was crestfallen. 

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
1.1  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @1    one month ago
At the end of the show Smerconish announced the results of his poll, 29,000 people had voted , with 79% of them voting that Musk should not be allowed to control Twitter. 

Be very interesting to know how many who voted against Musk are actual shareholders in the company. 

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
1.1.1  bugsy  replied to  Texan1211 @1.1    one month ago
Be very interesting to know how many who voted against Musk are actual shareholders in the company. 

Or believe in the true meaning of "free speech", and not the liberal version.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
2  Sparty On    one month ago

Elon Musks move on Twitter is genius.

Pure genius.

 
 
 
Right Down the Center
Freshman Guide
2.1  Right Down the Center  replied to  Sparty On @2    one month ago

And just like that he may be close to trump in being responsible for the most liberal heads exploding.  I am not sure why Micheal was surprised at the poll. He might be a both sides guy but he is still on cnn.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Right Down the Center @2.1    one month ago

Since Smerconish spoke up for Musk at the beginning of his show I'm sure he was disappointed he didnt convince many people. 

We have enough narcissistic egomaniacs running things in this world, we dont need another running twitter. 

 
 
 
Snuffy
Senior Guide
3  Snuffy    one month ago
No Company That Is As Vital To The Functioning Of Modern Societies Should Even Be In A Position To Be Snapped Up By A Billionaire, Writes Navneet Alang.

This seed is pure comedy.  I can refute this with one word.

Amazon

I submit that Amazon is much more aligned in the functioning of our modern society than Twitter will ever be.   Hell,  there are 112 million US citizens who are Amazon Prime subscribers (not to mention the non-subscribers who still shop on Amazon) vs almost 78 million US citizens who are on Twitter.  

Denied the opportunity to be on the board of the company, he instead played the role of a cartoonish rich man from cinema: "Well I'll just buy the damn thing then!"

As I remember it, he was offered a spot on the board and turned it down.  Hardly a good example of being denied the opportunity.  

I will admit I don't know what his endgame is.  Does he truly want to reshape and open up discussion?  Is this a ploy to make it a subscriber based system with advertising dollars?  Is this merely an attempt to boost stock value in an attempt to double the value of his purchase and just make money?  Don't know but in the meantime the diatribe being pushed are comical to read.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Snuffy @3    one month ago
Does he truly want to reshape and open up discussion? 

This is pure nonsense. The discussion on twitter is already "open". The idea that conservatives are prevented from giving their point of view is just silly. Oh wait, if they spout ridiculous, offensive conspiracy theories they are sometimes prevented, such as Trump was when he wouldnt stop lying about the election. No one should be allowed to lie to millions of people on someone else's dime. 

"Free speech" of the sort the far right wants to impose on twitter isnt worth a damn. This world has way more than enough problems without adding to them with the type of garbage the far right wants to present  to tens of millions of people on Twitter. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
3.1.1  Sparty On  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1    one month ago

That you can’t or won’t see the double standard that’s in play at Twitter, only reinforces the biases you display here nearly every day.

No surprises there ....

 
 
 
Snuffy
Senior Guide
3.1.2  Snuffy  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1    one month ago

But Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for the genocide of the Israeli people is ok?  Dictators with a proven history of human abuses are ok?  

I would call your entire comment pure nonsense but it's what we have come to expect from you.  It's sad that you are so caught up in your own delusion that you cannot see the double standards here.  

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1.3  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Snuffy @3.1.2    one month ago

If you go on twitter and you want to say the worst things you can think of about Biden no one is going to stop you. The people who are banned from twitter are banned for ridiculous conspiracy theories, blatant racism , or advocating violence. Why should rank conspiracy nuts (Q Anon), open racists, or those trying to instigate violence be given a platform by twitter? In the name of "free speech"? Please. There are many other places they can go to spew their bilge. 

 
 
 
Snuffy
Senior Guide
3.1.4  Snuffy  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1.3    one month ago

You refuse to see a double standard at play.

Why did Twitter block & ban people for the Hunter Biden laptop story?  Why did it take almost a year for the Post twitter account to be unlocked?  Why are people banned for questioning covid policies on masking and the vaccine when all they have done was ask questions?  

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1.5  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Snuffy @3.1.4    one month ago

21 People Who Have Been Permanently Banned From Twitter (thewrap.com)

I dont see any legitimate objection to any of these people having been banned from twitter.  Alex Jones ? Roger Stone? Michael Flynn? Steve Bannon? Marjorie Taylor Greene ? Donald Trump?   Good riddance to all of them. 

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
3.1.6  bugsy  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1.5    one month ago

Of course you don't because the ones you personally listed are conservatives.

Why are you not pissed that these people are banned , but not the Ayatollah.

More in line with your thinking?

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1.7  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  bugsy @3.1.6    one month ago
Of course you don't because the ones you personally listed are conservatives.

All of the people I mentioned have been justly accused of spreading insane conspiracy theories. There is no reason Twitter has to give them a platform for their insanity. 

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
3.1.8  bugsy  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1.7    one month ago
ustly accused of spreading insane conspiracy theories.

Your opinion.

Now, again, why are you not throwing the same tantrum that the Ayatollah is not banned for calling for the end to Israel and Death to America?

Again, is this more on your line of thinking?

 
 
 
Snuffy
Senior Guide
3.1.9  Snuffy  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1.5    one month ago

I see that once again you refuse to answer my questions.  Your continued replies only reinforce your acknowledgement of a double standard at play in the enforcement of who gets banned.  The only answer I can take away from this is that you are ok with how they operate and you have no problems with the double standard exhibited.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4  Kavika     one month ago

It came to light yesterday that Musk isn't the largest stockholder in Twitter, it's Vanguard Group. Musk is the largest individual stock holder. Plus the poison pill that the board will/is instituting could throw a wet blanket over the deal. 

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Expert
4.2  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Kavika @4    one month ago
it's Vanguard Group.

Yes, they've increased their Twitter holdings to around 82 million shares or and increase of 12 million shares in the last four months.  Over the years, I've learned to trust Vanguard decisions.  My father advised me to start with one of their funds and I've been so happy with their low cost and strong returns that they have remained my principal investments besides the federal Thrift Savings Plan.

Vanguard frequently sides with management in these kinds of situations and rarely advocates for changes like you might see a hedge fund do.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4.2.1  Kavika   replied to  Drinker of the Wry @4.2    one month ago

I've been quite happy with my Vanguard investments over the years. Low cost, good management the perfect combo.

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
5  Texan1211    one month ago
No Company That Is As Vital To The Functioning Of Modern Societies Should Even Be In A Position To Be Snapped Up By A Billionaire, Writes Navneet Alang.

Sounds like the writer is out of touch with reality if he believes Twitter is "vital to the functioning of Modern Society"!

SMH at the sheer idiocy of this statement!

 
 
 
Snuffy
Senior Guide
5.1  Snuffy  replied to  Texan1211 @5    one month ago
if he believes Twitter is "vital to the functioning of Modern Society"!

If only Twitter had more cats who haz cheeseburgers,  then the writer just might be more correct.   /s

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
5.1.1  Texan1211  replied to  Snuffy @5.1    one month ago

I am wondering how shallow someone must be to write that or believe what he wrote is true in any way.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
5.2  Sparty On  replied to  Texan1211 @5    one month ago

PhD in Eng Lit, emphasis on Twitter ....... what do you expect?

 
 
 
Colour Me Free
Junior Quiet
6  Colour Me Free    one month ago
. Denied the opportunity to be on the board of the company, he instead played the role of a cartoonish rich man from cinema: "Well I'll just buy the damn thing then!"
Elon Musk turns down seat on Twitter's board, after investing enough for an invite (nbcnews.com)

This article is dated April 15 .. interesting that the individual did not do even minimal research before sending to print..

No company that is as vital to the functioning of modern societies should even be in a position to be snapped up by a billionaire

Wow .. can anyone say Mark Zuckerberg?   Granted Elon Musk is an outspoken individual, even to the point of being very frustrating - sometimes all I can do is shake my head when he goes off script, but he is running companies that he himself created .... he is not out throwing his money around 'snapped(ing) up' companies. 

Musk no longer has the controlling interest of Twitter .. should he turn around and one up Vanguard by purchasing more stock .. then it may possibly be seen as a rich man throwing a tantrum to some .. but for now he is a smart businessman going after a profitable company that he could put his stamp on (albeit a unique stamp, he is not a hater)....!  

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
6.1  JBB  replied to  Colour Me Free @6    one month ago

Zuckerberg founded FB. He did not just purchase it...

 
 
 
Colour Me Free
Junior Quiet
6.1.1  Colour Me Free  replied to  JBB @6.1    one month ago

True, but Facebook has made several 'acquisitions' along the way to make Meta what it is today...

Top 5 Companies Owned by Facebook (Meta) (investopedia.com)
 
 
 
Hallux
Sophomore Principal
6.2  Hallux  replied to  Colour Me Free @6    one month ago
he is not a hater)...

? He's certainly not a fan of free speech when it takes him to task.

 
 
 
Colour Me Free
Junior Quiet
6.2.1  Colour Me Free  replied to  Hallux @6.2    one month ago
? He's certainly not a fan of free speech when it takes him to task.

I venture to say most (prob should say many) people are not a fan when 'free speech takes them to task'.  Why else would there be sayings like 'trite backdoor insult'...?  : )

Ooops I forgot the smiley face

 
 

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