After months of bragging about the idea of buying Twitter, Elon Musk is finally acquiring the platform.
When the deal was finalized, Musk showed the list of possible things he wanted to do with the platform, which according to him, would stand it out from the crowd.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spambots, and authenticating all humans.”
While he has stated too ambitious goals for Twitter, are these goals really feasible?
Is it really possible for him to turn it into a platform where free speech thrives and where the majority of income comes from subscribers and not the advertisers?
Can he keep the platform profitable doing all of this?
Let’s have a look.
Musk Will Have to Draw a Line Between Free Speech and Hate Speech
Musk calls himself a “free speech absolutist.” When Donald Trump was banned from the platform, Musk tweeted,
“A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”
This was surely an attempt by Musk to defend the actions of Donald Trump, not to mention that there are already speculations that he would lift the ban of the former president from the platform.
Twitter is one of those platforms which is the home to misinformation campaigns. In 2018, an MIT study found out that misinformation spread faster on Twitter than on any other platform.
Since then, Twitter has been trying to step up its efforts to curb these disinformation campaigns and increase the visibility of true news.
However, while combating these efforts of misinformation, Twitter was disproportionately targeting the conservative narrative.
For a long time, not only Twitter but also other media outlets downplayed the Hunter Biden laptop story, which turned out to be true.
The leaked emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop suggested his shady business dealings, which is not the talking point of many media outlets.
While Musk himself is a right-including person, it would be interesting to see if he intentionally downplays leftist narrative this time while preaching about the freedom of speech himself.
But would Musk be willing to crack down against the hate speech, or that would also be defended under the banner of free speech doctrine. If he does not do that, it would be difficult for him to get advertisers’ attention, as advertisers do not advertise on racist, sexist or any other sort of discriminatory stuff.
Musk Will Have to Comply With National Governments Laws
Similarly, Musk would also have to comply with the wishes of national governments, which define free speech in their own way.
Obviously, Twitter is a global platform and not every country has laws of free speech as lenient as in America. Even in its present form, many countries asked Twitter to allow them to take down any specific post which violates the national laws.
This means that Twitter will have a hard time doing business in many third world countries, which would render the platform a less efficient business model.
But Musk had another business model. He once talked about the business model that is not dependent on ads at all. In a now-deleted tweet, Musk stated,
“The power of corporations to dictate policy is greatly enhanced if Twitter depends on advertising money to survive.”
While writing this, he forgot the essential business model of Twitter. Firstly Twitter is wholly dependent on the ads model, and without it, a subscription-based model has to be introduced.
This means that it will ostensibly compromise the free speech doctrine once again as it would be limited to the platform of those who can afford it. Surely the global clout of Twitter would decrease with this subscription-based model, which will critically impact the mission which Musk is preaching.