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Will Musk’s hands-off ideal for Twitter have broad appeal? – The Denver Post



By MATT O’BRIEN and TOM KRISHER

Coming up with $44 billion to purchase Twitter was the straightforward half for Elon Musk.

Next comes the true problem for the world’s richest particular person: fulfilling his promise to make Twitter “better than ever” as a evenly regulated haven at no cost speech.

His imaginative and prescient for bettering the 16-year-old firm leans closely on a pledge to make speech “as free as reasonably possible” on the platform — a dedication that’s been celebrated on the political proper and amongst followers of former President Donald Trump, whose account final 12 months was completely banned. And for others who fear that Musk will open the floodgates to agitators who spew hate, lies and different dangerous content material, making the platform too poisonous for advertisers and common customers – Musk has supplied few assurances.

“The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all,” he tweeted Tuesday.

Many of Musk’s proposed modifications replicate his personal expertise as a high-profile and outspoken Twitter consumer with greater than 85 million followers and a swarm of pesky impersonator accounts that use his title and photograph to advertise cryptocurrency schemes. For instance, he has highlighted the necessity to defeat “spambots” that mimic actual customers.

But what about Twitter’s greater than 200 million different customers who aren’t getting banned or flooded with spam? There’s nonetheless numerous uncertainty about whether or not his concepts are technologically doable and the way we’ll know if these modifications would profit most common customers, or serve another goal.

“He’s made it pretty clear he’s not interested in making Twitter a profitable enterprise,” stated Joan Donovan, who research misinformation at Harvard University. “It’s about the power and the influence of Twitter itself and its importance in our culture.”

Experts who’ve studied content material moderation and researched Twitter for years have expressed doubt that Musk is aware of precisely what he’s stepping into. And among the issues he has recognized aren’t felt by most customers.

“The spambots, for him, are highly visible and somewhat personal,” stated Donovan. “Most people don’t see a lot of these spammy accounts.”

And for these sad with the corporate’s crackdown on hate, harassment and misinformation, there are many fledgling examples of “free speech” targeted platforms which have been launched prior to now few years as Twitter antidotes, largely by conservatives. Many have struggled to take care of poisonous content material, and a minimum of one has been reduce off by its personal expertise suppliers in protest.

“This move just shows how effective (moderation features) have been to annoy those in power,” stated Kirsten Martin, a professor of expertise ethics on the University of Notre Dame. “I would be worried as to how this would change Twitter’s values.”

The undeniable fact that no different bidders emerged in public earlier than Musk’s deal was an indication that different would-be acquirers would possibly discover Twitter too troublesome to enhance, stated Third Bridge analyst Scott Kessler.

“This platform is pretty much the same one we’ve had over the last decade or so,” Kessler stated. “You’ve had a lot of smart people trying to figure out what they should do, and they’ve had trouble. It’s probably going to be tough to make a lot of headway.”

Musk acquired some effusive, if extremely summary, reward from an surprising quarter — Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, who praised Musk’s resolution to take Twitter “ back from Wall Street ” and tweeted that he trusts Musk’s mission to “ extend the light of consciousness ” — a reference to Dorsey’s notion that “Twitter is the closest thing we have to a global consciousness.”

But others acquainted with Twitter say they’re nonetheless dismayed at Musk’s profitable bid for the corporate.

“Twitter is going to let a man-child essentially take over their platform,” stated Leslie Miley, a former Twitter worker who has additionally labored for Google and Apple. Miley, who was the one Black engineer at Twitter in a management place when he left the corporate in 2015, echoed doubts about Musk’s grasp of the platform’s complexities.

“I am not sure if Elon knows what he is getting,” Miley stated. “He may just find that having Twitter is a lot different than wanting Twitter.”

The extra hands-off method to content material moderation that Musk envisions has many customers involved that the platform will turn out to be extra of a protected place for disinformation, hate speech and bullying, one thing it has labored laborious lately to mitigate. Wall Street analysts stated if he goes too far, it may additionally alienate advertisers.

In Europe, officers reminded Musk a couple of new legislation, the Digital Services Act, that can drive tech firms to step up policing of their on-line platforms.

“Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules – regardless of their shareholding,” tweeted Thierry Breton, the European Union commissioner in command of the bloc’s inside market. “Mr. Musk knows this well. He is familiar with European rules on automotive, and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act.”

Musk’s takeover shouldn’t be but a executed deal and nonetheless awaits stockholder approval. Twitter beforehand scheduled its annual shareholders assembly for May 25, however a vote on the takeover shouldn’t be but on the agenda.

It will take six-to-eight months for the acquisition to undergo, and whereas there are prone to be some bumps alongside the way in which, there don’t seem like severe sufficient obstacles to cease the deal, based on Charles Elson, director of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance on the University of Delaware, sees as severe sufficient to cease the deal.

Normally when firms go personal, dissenting shareholders are forcibly cashed out. Some may problem the inventory worth in court docket, contending that Musk ought to pay extra, however that in all probability received’t maintain up the sale, Elson stated.

It’s probably that Musk would dissolve the present board and exchange it with a brand new one that will agree together with his administration route. And as soon as Twitter is personal, Musk will face fewer gripes from shareholders that usually convey lawsuits, Elson stated. Private firms additionally don’t face as a lot scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been a finger in Musk’s eye for years, typically due to statements he’s made on Twitter.

On Tuesday, shares of Twitter traded round $50, a contact under the $54.20 buy worth.

Twitter will supply a glimpse into the well being of its enterprise when it experiences its quarterly monetary outcomes Thursday. An annual shareholder assembly is ready for May.

Twitter’s constituents aren’t the one ones anxious about Musk’s $44 billion funding.

Shares of Musk’s electrical automotive firm, Tesla, have misplaced about 17% of their worth since Musk introduced his stake in Twitter, together with a couple of 10% decline on Tuesday. Analysts say buyers are fearful that Musk might be distracted by the social media firm and fewer engaged in working Tesla.

“He’s going to be spending more time with another venture,” Edward Jones Senior Equity Analyst Jeff Windau stated of Musk, who additionally runs SpaceX, The Boring Co., which digs tunnels, and Neuralink, a computer-brain interface firm. “There’s a potential limit on the amount of bandwidth that you can apply to each of these companies,” Windau stated.

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Krisher reported from Detroit. O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island. AP Business Writers Marcy Gordon in Washington, Barbara Ortutay in Oakland, California, Kelvin Chan in London and Sam Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.



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