Musk isn’t looking for a “free-for-all hell” for Twitter

Musk isn’t looking for a “free-for-all hell” for Twitter

Elon Musk sought to reassure wary advertisers on Twitter on Thursday, a day before the deadline to close his $44 billion purchase of the social media platform, saying he was buying the platform to help humanity and did not want it to become a “free-for-all hell.” ”

The message appears aimed at addressing concerns among advertisers – Twitter’s main source of revenue – that Musk’s plans to promote free speech by reducing content moderation will open the door to more toxicity online and drive away users.

“The reason I bought Twitter is that it is important for the future of civilization to have a common digital town square where a wide range of beliefs can be discussed in a healthy way, without resorting to violence,” Musk wrote in unusually long message for the Tesla CEO, who usually projects his thoughts in one-line tweets.

He continued: “Right now there is a great danger that social media will split into far-right and far-left echo chambers that generate even more hatred and divide our society.”

Musk has previously expressed distaste for advertising and Twitter’s dependence on it, suggesting more emphasis be placed on other business models such as paid subscriptions that won’t allow big corporations to dictate policy on how social media works. But on Thursday, he assured advertisers that he wants Twitter to be “the most valued advertising platform in the world.”

The note is a departure from Musk’s position that Twitter unfairly infringes on free speech rights by blocking misinformation or graphic content, said Pinar Yildirim, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

But it’s also a recognition that a lack of content moderation is bad for business, putting Twitter at risk of losing advertisers and subscribers, she said.

“You don’t want a place where consumers are just bombarded with things they don’t want to hear about and the platform takes no responsibility,” Yildirim said.

Musk said Twitter should be “warm and welcoming to everyone” and allow users to choose the experience they want.

“I didn’t do it to make money,” he said of the pending purchase. “I did it to try to help the humanity I love. And I do so humbly, recognizing that failure to achieve this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility.”

The deadline for closing the deal was Friday ordered by the Delaware Court of Chancery in early October. It’s the latest step in a battle that began in April when Musk signed a deal to acquire Twitter, then tried to back out of it, leading to Twitter suing a Tesla executive to force him into the acquisition. If the two sides don’t meet Friday’s deadline, the next step could be a trial in November that could lead to a judge forcing Musk to complete the deal.

But Musk has signaled that work is underway. On Wednesday, he walked into the company’s San Francisco headquarters carrying a porcelain sink, changed his Twitter profile to “Chief Twit” and tweeted “Getting into Twitter HQ – keep it coming!”

And overnight, the New York Stock Exchange notified investors that it would suspend trading in Twitter shares before the open on Friday in anticipation of the company going private under Musk.

Musk is expected to speak directly with Twitter employees on Friday if the deal is finalized, according to an internal memo cited by several media outlets. Despite internal confusion and low morale linked to fears of layoffs or dismantling of the company’s culture and operations, Twitter executives this week at least outwardly welcomed Musk’s arrival and messaging.

Sales executive Sarah Personette, the company’s chief buyer officer, said she had a “great discussion” with Musk on Wednesday and appeared to support his message to advertisers from Thursday.

“Our ongoing commitment to brand safety for advertisers remains unchanged,” Personette tweeted Thursday. “We look forward to the future!”

Musk’s apparent enthusiasm about visiting Twitter’s headquarters this week was in stark contrast to one of his earlier proposals: that the building should be turned into a homeless shelter because so few employees actually worked there.

The Washington Post published last week that Musk has told potential investors that he plans to lay off three-quarters of Twitter’s 7,500 employees when he takes over the company. The paper cites documents and unnamed sources familiar with the debate.

Musk has spent months mocking Twitter’s “spam bots” and making sometimes contradictory statements about Twitter’s problems and how to fix them. But he shared few specific details about his plans for the social media platform.

Thursday’s memo to advertisers shows a newfound emphasis on advertising revenue, specifically the need for Twitter to provide more “relevant ads” — typically meaning targeted ads that rely on the collection and analysis of users’ personal data.

Yildirim said that, unlike Facebook, Twitter has not been good at targeting ads to what users want to see. Musk’s message suggests he wants to fix that, she said.

Insider Intelligence principal analyst Jasmine Enberg said Musk has good reason to avoid a massive shake-up of Twitter’s advertising business as Twitter’s revenue has taken a hit from a weakening economy, months of uncertainty over Musk’s proposed takeover, changing consumer behavior and the fact that “there are no other sources of revenue waiting in their wings.”

“Even a slight loosening of content moderation on the platform is sure to scare away advertisers, many of whom already find Twitter’s brand safety tools lacking compared to other social platforms,” ​​Enberg said.

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