What Elon Musk would do with Twitter

During the past two weeks, he has indicated through regulatory filings, tweets and a recent interview at a TED conference how he thinks about the company and what he would do if he were to successfully acquire the social-media site used by more than 200 million people world-wide.

The Tesla Inc. chief executive offered to buy Twitter with a $43 billion bid last week. In response, the company adopted a so-called poison pill, which makes it difficult for Mr. Musk to increase his stake in the company beyond 15%.

The board has yet to formally respond to the details of the proposal. In the meantime, here is a list of what Mr. Musk has said he would like to do with the platform.

Soften its stance on content moderation.

Mr. Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” said in an interview during a TED conference last week that Twitter is the “de facto town square,” and that “it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech.”

He said Twitter should be more cautious when deciding whether to take down tweets or permanently ban users. Timeouts are better, he added.

The platform should also follow the laws of the countries it provides services in, Mr. Musk said. And when Twitter does make changes to amplify or reduce a tweet’s reach, it should give users insight into what happened, he said.

Mr. Musk also said that he doesn’t have all the answers. Twitter, meanwhile, has spent years trying to promote what it calls healthier discourse on the platform, adding content moderation in part under the argument that it is good for business.

Create an edit feature for tweets.

An edit button has long been requested by Twitter users. Earlier this month, Mr. Musk polled Twitter users on whether they wanted one. More than four million accounts voted, and more than 70% said yes. Twitter later said it had already been working on an edit button since last year.

Mr. Musk reiterated his support for an edit button in the TED interview, and mused about ways the platform might implement the feature.

Take the public company private.

Mr. Musk said in a regulatory filing he wants to take Twitter private.

“Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company,” he said. “Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.”

Taking Twitter off the public stock exchange would likely make it easier for Mr. Musk to implement his desired changes to the company, since much of the shareholder pressure would dissolve. However, Mr. Musk also said in the TED interview that he would want to retain as many shareholders as possible if he succeeds in taking the company private.

Make Twitter’s algorithm open source and put the code on GitHub.

In the TED interview, Mr. Musk suggested making Twitter’s algorithm open source, meaning others outside the company would be able to view and recommend fixes and changes. One way to do that, he said, is to put the code on GitHub, a site that is used for storing software projects.

Give users who pay for Twitter Blue authentication check marks.

Mr. Musk, in a flurry of tweets during the second weekend of April, suggested that Twitter give users who pay for Twitter Blue—a subscription service that adds extra features to users’ accounts—a check mark to show their account has been “authenticated.” This would be distinct from the coveted blue check mark that requires accounts to be both authentic and notable.

Rely less on advertising.

In the same series of tweets, Mr. Musk said Twitter should shift toward a business model that relies more on subscriptions. Twitter Blue currently adds premium features like “undo tweet” for a monthly fee of $2.99. Mr. Musk suggested the subscription include removing all ads.

He also floated cutting staff and shutting down the company’s San Francisco headquarters. Such cuts could be needed if the company were to move away from advertising, which in the fourth quarter of 2021 accounted for about 90% of its revenue.

Try to stop spam and scam bots.

Mr. Musk said a top priority for him would be eliminating “bot armies” on Twitter, which spam accounts and run scams.

“If I had a dogecoin for every crypto scam I saw,” he said during the TED interview.

Allow for longer tweets.

In a tweet last week, Mr. Musk advocated what he called long-form tweets.

On Friday, he responded to a lengthy Twitter thread from Yishan Wong, a former chief executive of social-media company Reddit Inc., who offered his take on the Twitter takeover situation. Mr. Musk didn’t respond to Mr. Wong’s thoughts, he responded to the form they took.

“My most immediate takeaway from this novella of a thread is that Twitter is *way* overdue for long form tweets!” he said, without offering any more explanation.

In most cases, tweets can contain up to 280 characters, double the previous limit of 140.

Twitter declined to comment. Mr. Musk didn’t respond to a request for comment.

 

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