Social media analysts react on the news Elon Musk has finally agreed to acquire Twitter according to the original terms.
And now the little bird is free.
When Tesla CEO Elon Musk first announced his intention to buy Twitter (TWTR) – Get Twitter Inc. Report, a meme appeared on social media depicting the world’s richest man opening a birdcage door to liberate the microblogging website’s bird mascot, Larry.
The image was supposed to represent Musk’s intentions to free Twitter from various rules as he described the site as “the digital town square, where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”
The saga began on April 25 when Musk first made his bid to buy the company, and dragged on as he withdrew his offer on July 8, charging that Twitter had lied to him about the number of spam bots, or fake accounts, on the platform.
‘A Short Window’
Everybody was ready to go to court when Musk’s attorney contacted Twitter to say the billionaire decided to resubmit his offer to acquire the company for $44 billion as he initially proposed.
“Elon Musk’s lawyers must have told him that he was likely to lose his case in terminating his Twitter deal,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst for the Americas with Oanda. “Twitter needs to accept the terms, too, and since it is his original offer, they will probably have to accept it.”
Moya said that “Musk has never hesitated in defending free speech, so he will likely try to bring everyone banned back.”
“Twitter will become more efficient under Musk,” he said, “but it will struggle to attract the younger generation. Musk will have a short window to fix Twitter.”
Bringing back everybody banned includes former President Donald Trump, whom Musk promised to reinstate after Trump was booted from the platform following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.
Trump has said that he would not return to Twitter and that he planned to stay with his own variant, TruthSocial.
‘A Fever Swamp’
“The bottom line is, no, I am not going back to Twitter,” Trump told Fox News in April.
A Trump-Twitter reunion could cause problems for Digital World Acquisition, the blank check company attempting to merge with Trump’s struggling media group by reducing Trump’s interest in seeing the deal go through.
Liberals have warned against the acquisition, with Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, issuing a statement saying “Musk will turn Twitter into a fever swamp of dangerous conspiracy theories, partisan chicanery, and operationalized harassment.”
Others are not so sure.
“I expect Musk will probably direct Twitter to keep all of the blatantly racist, misogynist, hate speech stuff off Twitter and practice tolerance for disagreement and controversy,” said Ben Bentzin, marketing professor at the University of Texas.
“Controversy can be good in terms of driving engagement,” he added “Twitter wants engagement on the platform and just sharing things we agree with doesn’t tend to get as much attention as controversy.”
‘The More People Participate, The Better’
Bentzin said that he can’t imagine that Elon Musk would consider it in Twitter’s best interest “to create a platform that is attractive to one segment of the society and unattractive to another.”
“The more people that participate the better,” he said, “and if that becomes a platform for them to openly share their disagreements with each other in a tolerant way, I think that that’s probably going to be be good for Twitter. If it becomes a toxic platform of intolerance then that’s going to be a real setback.”
“This was a casebook study of what not to do when you decide to buy a major company,” said Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, noting Musk’s various complaints about the platform.
While “Twitter certainly is in the Hall of Fame of influential social media,” he said it is difficult to predict where Musk will take the platform..
“I certainly haven’t seen a business plan submitted by him,” he said, “yet it seems from the things he’s saying that he wants a less regulated environment and that also does seem to be counter to some of the positive results that have come from putting in some kind of controls.”
‘Where Would They Go?’
However, Thompson said its very difficult “even if your heart is completely in the right place and you really try to bring a sense of nobility to social media to come up with concrete controls that could become operational…it’s a really complicated set of equations.”
Karen North, a communications professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, said Musk will open the network to more controversial opinions believing that people should be able to state their opinions regardless of their ideology.”
“Twitter has never been so successful as when Donald Trump was on every day,” she said, “so if you just look at it as a business venture bringing Donald Trump back and all the controversy that goes with it is an interesting financial move.”
North said she views Twitter as more of an information network than a social network, noting that most verified uses are people” who share information with their own audiences whether they’re journalists or something else.”
There has been talk of people leaving Twitter, but North has her doubts.
“Where would they go?” she asked. “There’s nothing like it.”