Elon Musk Buys Twitter for $44 Billion, Twitter’s Future Uncertain

Twitter made the surprising response of accepting Elon Musk’s buyout of $44 billion. The future isn’t looking to good.

The news had been bubbling for a few days now. Elon Musk has been trying to buy Twitter in a hostile takeover. It was somewhat difficult to imagine that Twitter wouldn’t fight against this tooth and nail. This after what seemingly every sane person is foreseeing as a potential outcome of Musk buying Twitter. That is, radically taking Twitter in a completely different direction after Twitters current management has been trying to move forward in various delicate situations. The last thing Twitter needs is a sledge hammer approach.

It’s precisely that reason why it was quite surprising that Twitter accepted the buyout offer of $44 billion. From the BBC:

Mr Musk, who made the shock bid less than two weeks ago, said Twitter had “tremendous potential” that he would unlock.

He also called for a series of changes from relaxing its content restrictions to eradicating fake accounts.

The firm initially rebuffed Mr Musk’s bid, but it will now ask shareholders to vote to approve the deal.

Musk, of course, has a reputation for supporting right wing extremists for some time. In one example, he supported the terrorist activities of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” which was responsible for the occupation of the Ottawa downtown core, the hijacking of several key trading routes, efforts to overthrow the democratically elected Canadian government, assaults and threats of civilians, and the torture of the population at large.

So, there’s little wonder why when someone who supports something like that says that he wants to fix the “free speech” issues of the platform, a lot of users grew nervous. Typically, for right wing extremists, when they say “free speech”, they really mean allowing all speech they agree with and the censorship of those who say things they disagree with. So, the typical “believe the opposite of what right wingers are saying and it’s probably true” situation.

Many far right voices are already calling for the reinstatement of twice impeached US president, Donald Trump, the man who perpetrated the January 6th terrorist attack on the US Capitol buildings. It’s generally expected that the ban would eventually be lifted despite the obvious reasons why Trump was banned in the first place.

Far right wing users and Russian troll farms are already calling for the banning of their political rivals on Twitter. Some saying that anyone who threatened to leave under hashtags like “#RIPTwitter” and “#GoodbyeTwitter” should be permanently banned. That, of course, is a sign that those who support the move know what is going to become of the site.

History has shown what happens when a platform becomes a right wing echo chamber. Several social media services have popped up over the years purporting to be “free speech” alternatives to Twitter. A number of right wingers did everything they could to promote them and pump up those platform numbers. The problem became apparent because, for right wingers, there were no “Liberals to own” once they migrated over there. Eventually, they went back to Twitter to continue their lifelong mission of hatred and vitriol. It’s why platforms like Parler, Gab, Gettr, and Truth Social all failed. It’s also what many people are seeing the future of Twitter becoming.

Despite the delusions of far right extremists, a lot of people who are actually sane aren’t entirely broken up about the idea of leaving Twitter. For many, Twitter was always a cesspool of right wing extremism and hate. It was always a network of pro-conservative bias. The only real reason some of them aren’t leaving right away is because of the existing connections. Of course, if Twitter goes the way a lot are thinking, those social connections are going to get severed anyway, giving users one less reason to stick around.

Of course, the potential mass migration needs more than just a reason to leave one platform. It also needs a platform to go to. This is proving to be a bit more difficult. Currently, the most common name being thrown around is Mastodon, a p2p social media platform that kind of works like eDonkey2000. While you do join the platform by joining a community, people in other communities can see what you post. Another platform that does make the occasional mention is Pillowfort as well. As many are admitting, neither are exactly a perfect solution.

Still, it’s worth noting that just because a mass user migration would be difficult, there have been such migrations in the past. Two big examples is the mass migration users had when they went from MySpace to Facebook. Another mass migration that we are aware of was the migration of users going from Digg to Reddit. It doesn’t happen that often, but there are instances where users, on a large scale, abandoned one site for another. It typically involves some kind of shock to the system in the old site and a big incentive to go to the new site. This is what I call the “push pull” factor.

Right now, we are seeing the initial shock of right wing supporter, Musk, buying Twitter and taking it private. That can very easily qualify as the initial shock to the system. The next step in this process needs time to materialize if it materializes at all. That step is a massive shakeup in moderation and how the staff moderates content. Some are holding out to see if moderation is actually going to take a radical shift. That would most certainly be the initial push factor kicking in.

Where things start to get a little uncertain is whether or not the pull factors of alternatives will be enough to win over users. Some have expressed concern about the privacy of Mastodon as well as how it tends to get segmented on the administrator side of things. For Pillowfort, they charge money for joining the “open beta” which will probably be a deal breaker for a vast majority of users. There’s also the possibility that the staff that built Twitter could simply rebuild a whole new social media platform as well. Would users be willing to push through the growing pains of a whole new platform? Hard to say.

At any rate, the outlook isn’t exactly looking promising. Really, the only move Musk could make that would cause the least amount of damage is to not change a thing in terms of Twitter moderation. That seems unlikely given his recent statements about him ‘unlocking the free speech potential’ of the platform. Unless there’s another major surprise in the story, it’s looking like the future for Twitter isn’t looking so bright at the moment.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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