Opinion: Musk's Twitter Takeover: The long and short of it

Social Samosa
May 04, 2022 06:00 IST
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Mithun Mukherjee of Kinnect demystifies the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter, shedding some light on what this move holds in store for "the closest thing we have to a global consciousness".

We live in a world where social media has more than one way of being social. Suppose one of them is to allow you to voice your opinion or stay connected with your friends and family. In that case, the other is a constant shuffle of the platforms themselves among the portfolios of the billionaires. The latest in a rather long series of takeovers has been Twitter, bought by Internet's Tony Stark, Elon Musk.

Where did it begin? It can probably be traced back to Musk's undying love for the platform and free speech. Musk tweeted a poll asking people if they thought Twitter permitted free speech in what would eventually become a notable event. With 70% of people responding with a "No", the next step was a "What should be done?" Surprise, surprise, Musk decided to answer that question shortly after by buying Twitter for a whopping $44B.

This move supports his idea of defending free speech. While going into the buyout, however, he had suggested job cuts and a higher push towards influencers using the platform. Twitter currently stands as one of the most dynamic platforms that is, in Twitter founder Jack Dorsey's own words, "the closest thing we have to a global consciousness". He also said that no one should own or run Twitter but that taking it back from Wall Street was the "corrective first step".

Also Read: Expert Speak: The question of the future of Twitter in the hands of a futurist owner

So what are the big changes that Musk might be after?

If the Internet is to be believed, the first thing that he seems to be going after is making tweets editable. Non-editable tweets have been both a boon and a bane for Twitter for as long as one can remember. From making memes out of typo-ed tweets by celebs to digging up problematic ones from long ago, tweets have always been known for being concrete-like, never open to change. With editable tweets, this 'dependability' that the platform has generated might get diluted. And this would have widespread ramifications.

The other significant change is to make Twitter open-source. Twitter users have frequently raised complaints about the algorithm, where users have claimed to be manipulated to spend more time on the platform for better engagement. With Dorsey saying, "the choice of which algorithm to use (or not) should be open to everyone", it is one of the things that Musk is expected to go after. Musk's suggestion comes from another poll that he carried out on the 24th of March. Out of a million respondents, about 83% had said yes to turning Twitter into an open-source platform.

However, what this open-source software would entail, is still an open question.

As they say, there are many a slip 'twixt the cup and lip. While Musk's road might be paved with good intentions, how many of them translate to Twitter finally becoming a front runner platform for self-expression remains. In his own words:

"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 want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithm open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential. I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it."

The article is authored by Mithun Mukherjee, ECD, Kinnect.