Elon Musk's weekend: Plenty of tweets, little clarity
Category: News & PoliticsVia: perrie-halpern • 4 weeks ago • 198 comments
By: Jason Abbruzzese
It was a weekend that highlighted just how unpredictable and contradictory Musk can be.
Musk's plans for the 238 million-daily-user platform will have a sizable impact on speech on the internet — especially political speech — at a time of deep polarization in the U.S. Although it has a far smaller number of users than some of its competitors, its influence is outsized.
Musk's deal to buy Twitter was finalized Thursday, ending a lengthy and contentious battle in which he tried to back out of the deal and made a variety of disparaging comments about Twitter. Musk at various times promised to cut staff and change moderation practices.
But with few legal options to stop the deal, Musk in recent weeks began to change his tune, most notably tweeting Thursday that advertisers did not need to worry about the platform's becoming "a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences." Along with a tweet Friday in which Musk said he planned to start a council at Twitter to decide on moderation issues, the overture to advertisers offered clear evidence that sudden and wide-reaching moves relaxing Twitter rules may not be forthcoming.
That does not mean they are off the table. Musk has surrounded himself with Silicon Valley veterans, some of whom have criticized Twitter's moderation work. Venture capitalists Jason Calacanis and Sriram Krishnan both tweeted over the weekend that they were involved. Calacanis tweeted over the weekend that Twitter will be "laser-focused on identity and safety in the coming weeks," including a "very comprehensive plan to reduce the number of (and visibility of) bots, spammers, & bad actors on the platform."
The Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, on April 26. Amy Osborne / AFP - Getty Images file
Moderation is the highest-profile and most hotly debated part of Musk's Twitter plans, but it may not be the most pressing. Dan Ives, a managing director and senior equity research analyst covering the technology sector at the investment firm Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note Friday that he sees the acquisition "as one of the most overpaid tech acquisitions in the history of M&A deals on the Street in our opinion."
That means Musk may need to spend more of his time focused on increasing revenue and limiting costs instead of making moves that could alienate users and advertisers — one of which could be turning Twitter into a broader app with features such as payments, which Musk has dubbed "X."
"Musk took over Twitter last night and now major questions will remain around changes to the platform, monetization efforts, the level of headcount cuts on the horizon, and the long term strategy around the 'X' App and building a potential WeChat model down the road," Ives wrote. "Musk now adds Twitter to his Tesla, SpaceX, and broader Elon ecosystem. Our price target is the deal price at $54.20."
Whether Musk will focus on that is an open question. He continued tweeting Sunday night, responding with a crying emoji after ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel called him "a fully-formed piece of s---" in response to Musk's tweet about Clinton. Later, he appeared to poke fun at his deleted tweet while also taking a swipe at The New York Times.
"This is fake — I did *not* tweet out a link to The New York Times!" Musk wrote alongside a screenshot of the Times' coverage of his deleted tweet.
Jason Abbruzzese is the senior editor for technology, science and climate for NBC News Digital.