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Solomon: Elon Musk Marks the Beginning of a New Era at Twitter

We went to sleep peacefully on Thursday night. By the time we woke up, Elon Musk had completed his $44 billion deal to acquire the world’s most influential social media site. In a series of completely expected immediate firings, Musk terminated the contracts of CEO Parag Agrawal and CFO Ned Segal. Musk also fired Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal head, who was ultimately responsible for former President Donald Trump’s ouster from the site. While Musk told Twitter advertisers earlier this week that Musk-era Twitter would not become a “hellscape,” millions of users will spend hours on Friday publicly debating whether Twitter is now poised to become a hellscape. As attorney Jason Matzus points out, “Twitter is a massive social forum that wields a lot of power to control what is said, how it’s said, and who says it.” Who will remain on Twitter to say it remains to be seen. Many Twitter users claimed that they would leave the site the second Musk took control. To me, it’s reminiscent of when (probably) many of the same people claimed they would move to Canada if Donald J. Trump became president. They didn’t. And millions who say they’ll leave Twitter today or this weekend or next month also won’t. What they will surely do is create the kind of drawn-out, dramatic dialogue that feeds into exactly what Musk wants the platform to become — a broad and massive social forum with fewer restrictions on what is said. That, in the middle of the night, Musk reportedly decided to reverse lifetime bans on Twitter users (the subtext is obviously Trump) marks the beginning of this new era. What will test Twitter’s ultimate elasticity as a platform in the Musk era and whether the world’s most important social media company survives it is where the limits are set in practical rather than philosophical terms. People actually will leave if Twitter becomes “the noise” that former CEO Agrawal warned Twitter employees was coming. The noise of the acquisition itself will die down soon enough — it’s what follows that will determine Twitter’s future and whether it can ultimately survive. That Musk’s acquisition of Twitter actually made it to the finish line is a shock to many observers who believed that his endgame was simply to stay in the public spotlight rather than to actually spend close to $50 billion to acquire the platform. Now that the deal has gone through, Musk needs to shift his focus to practical rather than philosophical concerns, as the former will drive the latter. Those practical concerns begin and end with the monetization of the platform. I have been a very active Twitter user since early 2009 and have spent a grand total of $0 on the platform. I have never paid to promote a tweet and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t even know most of the things that I could be paying for on Twitter. Therein lies the problem. Converting highly active users who have been given a decade and a half of something for free into paying users is going to be a pretty cool trick. Kind of like getting people to drive electric cars. The value proposition to us as end users needs to be made clear, and fast. Whether Musk succeeds where Jack Dorsey failed in monetizing Twitter will intimately drive its fate, much more so than where the limits on socio-political dialogue are ultimately set. While these limits will determine what Musk-era Twitter looks and feels like, money will ultimately determine its lifespan. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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