Elon Musk is not close to a paradox. While the multi-billionaire businessman was very close two weeks ago to canceling his takeover of Twitter, the boss of Tesla and SpaceX spoke for the first time to employees of the social network on Thursday June 16. The objective of the videoconference: to answer their many questions about its vision to develop the platform to 229 million monetizable users.
An economic project still very vague
But the exchange did not really make it possible to remove the doubts of the employees. According to the various reports relayed by the New York Times and the Bloomberg agency via internal sources, Elon Musk merely reaffirmed his ambition to multiply the potential of Twitter by making it reach one billion users, an increase of more than 700 million people, and to diversify its sources of income.
On this last point, the entrepreneur had already revealed, in April, that he intended to develop subscriptions with brands wishing to use the social network to communicate, in addition to targeted advertising which is already the economic model of the platform. According to him, the subscription will make it possible to purge fake accounts, in particular bots which parasitize the user experience by inserting sometimes irrelevant purchase offers in the middle of the flow of tweets. Elon Musk estimates – without any proof – that the number of fake accounts is around 20%, while management has been claiming for years that the proportion does not exceed 5%, and has just provided Elon Musk with all the tweets published every day to prove it to him once and for all.
The billionaire would not return to this controversy. On the other hand, he launched new tracks. While sharing his passion for the social network, his favorite means of expression, Elon Musk said he was dissatisfied with the financial results of the company. He would have described the user experience on Twitter as boring, and cited as an example the success of applications that belong to Chinese groups, TikTok and WeChat. The first is characterized by modern and viral video formats, and the second is a “super-app” that serves both as text, audio and video messaging, but also as a social network and online shopping platform with integrated payment .
How does he want to be inspired by it for Twitter? A mystery, but many analysts expect a major shift to video, in line with other social networks like Facebook that have copied innovative formats from challengers like Snap or Tik Tok in recent years. What about the development of audio and video communications, or even e-commerce, as on WeChat? The contractor did not specify.
Ambiguity and contradictions on the political dimension of the takeover
The employees also questioned Elon Musk on his political vision. A claimed libertarian – even anarchist for some observers -, the entrepreneur is a fervent militant of total freedom of expression, that is to say subject to moderation as little as possible. A dated or even untenable conception today because of the deleterious effects proven by multiple scientific works of the phenomenon of algorithmic amplification (or free reach): the problem is not the expression of all opinions but the fact that hateful opinions, fake news or cyberbullying find themselves propelled algorithmically towards massive audiences.
This phenomenon, which threatens democratic public debate, is pushing governments around the world, on the left and on the right and including in France, to demand more content regulation. Elon Musk’s conception of freedom of expression is therefore close to the libertarians of Silicon Valley – like Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, who left at the end of 2021 – and above all, in the United States, to Donald Trump and of the Republican Party’s most right-wing aide. It is therefore far from being politically neutral or moderate, contrary to the assertions of Elon Musk.
In tweets, old and recent, the billionaire does not hide his closeness to the Republican party and criticizes “the left” which he regularly describes as extremist and dangerous, thus taking up the argument of the Republicans most at risk. right of the American political spectrum. As recently as Wednesday, he tweeted his support for Florida’s ultra-conservative Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for the 2024 presidential election. His lack of neutrality obviously raises questions about his intentions regarding Twitter’s future role in the debate. public, especially a few months before the American midterm elections.
Ironically, Elon Musk continues to define himself as “moderate” and reaffirmed it in front of Twitter employees. He criticized the fact that the social network would be according to him “on the left” and should be “more impartial”. The entrepreneur again underlined the importance in his view of less strict moderation of content, within the limits defined by law. Another paradox: Elon Musk claims to want to respect “the law, nothing but the law”, but pretends to ignore that Twitter is criticized all over the world for its inability to live up to current legal requirements in terms of moderation, which breeds hate speech, misinformation and cyberbullying, and therefore weakens democracies.
How the billionaire will compose his very politicized speech no matter what he says, with the reality of the law everywhere in the world and the fact that it should become even tougher in the years to come to fight against the algorithmic amplification of content ? Another mystery!
Be that as it may, the politicization of Elon Musk’s public interventions does not only tense up at Twitter. SpaceX employees criticize him for his behavior “source of distraction and shame“, and call on the space company to “publicly condemn” his way of tweeting, in a letter which must be delivered to the president of SpaceX, according to the specialized site The Verge.
Contrast between Musk’s culture and Twitter’s DNA
Finally, Elon Musk was asked about his intentions in terms of corporate culture and working conditions. And again, the boss of Tesla and SpaceX seems very distant with the practices of Twitter. Since the Covid and even recently, the current management of the social network has undertaken to allow the company’s 7,500 employees to work entirely remotely if they wish. However, a few days ago, Elon Musk required Tesla employees to work at least 40 hours a week face-to-face, or risk being fired.
Asked about this subject, the probable future boss of Twitter remained, once again, vague. According to the New York Times, he acknowledged that network employees do a different job from those who design and assemble cars, but reaffirmed his preference for face-to-face.
Regarding his role, he indicated that he wanted to influence the strategic orientations and the improvement of the products. He did not specify whether he intended to lay off employees, but mentioned the consideration of performance. The meeting highlighted “the contrast between Musk’s culture and Twitter’s DNA“, remarked analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush.
No reassurance of completing the purchase process
Although Elon Musk has been keen to speak to Twitter employees, which could indicate he sees himself in his future role as owner of the company, the billionaire has not confirmed that he will not be taking the purchase process to his term, two weeks after he accused Twitter of lying to him and threatened to reverse the takeover.
On the stock market, the price of Twitter remains much lower (30% less) at the price of 44 billion dollars proposed in mid-April by Elon Musk. A sign that Wall Street is not yet convinced by the takeover and that the social network is also swept away by the stock market crisis around tech stocks.
Despite this turbulence, the leader of South African origin has secured the support of several large fortunes and investment companies to achieve the 44 billion dollars that this takeover must cost.
At the beginning of May, the whimsical billionaire raised more than 7 billion dollars to finance the transaction from several investors, including the founder of the Oracle IT group, Larry Ellison (1 billion dollars), the fund Sequoia Capital (800 million), and Binance (500 million).