In the tumultuous couple of months since Elon Musk took charge of Twitter, he may have come across as a bull in the china shop. Now he may step away from daily operations after a poll in which he asked, “Should I step down as head of Twitter?” 57.5% of respondents voted “Yes.”
Elon Musk promised to abide by the results of the poll. However, in true Musk fashion, it may not happen right away or even on any timeline set by Elon Musk. He will likely want to find someone who is qualified to run Twitter – and, as someone who owns a large stake in the now-private company, he will likely still have a large influence in the future direction of the social media platform.
Under Musk’s brief tenure, Twitter has suspended prominent journalists’ accounts. He blamed the ElonJet account, which tracks the location of Musk’s private jet, for causing a dangerous situation for his family by “doxxing” their location. He reversed that ban after another poll, though.
Soon after taking over Twitter, Musk talked about turning it into the core of a proposed “X App.” He was not very specific about what the X App would look like. Some people speculated that it could be an “everything app” that could eliminate the need for mobile phone users to have separate apps for things like food delivery or ride sharing.
It does not look like he’s made much progress on the X App. He’s simply laid off employees, banned accounts (and possibly gone after bots more aggressively), and generally “moved fast and broke things.”
Elon Musk warned that Twitter could file for bankruptcy, which allows for options to restructure its finances without disappearing as a company. Several large corporations like Chipotle and GM paused their advertising after Musk took over. However, according to Musk, Twitter had been burning its way through $4 million per day even before he took over. He said it needs new revenue sources – possibly hence the $8-per-month “Twitter Blue” subscription plan that can come with a blue tick mark.
Mars Society president Robert Zubrin suggested that it wasn’t the end of the world if Twitter fails. It will give Elon Musk a chance to refocus on other companies like SpaceX. Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) has also been tanking badly since Musk took over Twitter, possibly partly because Musk has been selling off billions of dollars of TSLA.
This does not mean he didn’t have a plan for Twitter – and, in fact, the situation could be salvaged if he has a master plan that he just hasn’t fully revealed yet.
The Twitter situation has opened the door for other competitors. A lot of people closed their Twitter accounts and moved to alternative social media platforms like Mastodon. A NASA flight director named Royce Renfrew reactivated his only because the fake account problem is still floating around.
Musk apparently didn’t like the idea of people using their Twitter accounts to promote competitors and briefly banned links to other social media accounts. He backed off, though, likely due to European regulations.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin joined the crowd that loudly criticizes Musk for his Twitter-related decisions, calling many of the decisions “authoritarianism.”
Some digital asset insiders are working on their own social media alternatives – naturally, with the ideal being decentralized platforms. Jack Dorsey admitted making mistakes when he led Twitter, including giving up on what he wanted to do with it after a previous activist investor’s attempt to take it over failed in 2020.
“The biggest mistake I made was continuing to invest in building tools for us to manage the public conversation, versus building tools for the people using Twitter to easily manage it for themselves,” he told PCMag.
Dorsey is currently working on an alternative social media platform called BlueSky. He donated 14 bitcoin to support development of the open-source social media app Nostr and will donate $1 million per year to the Signal app.
Mastodon is a decentralized social media platform that saw an upswing in membership since Elon Musk closed the Twitter acquisition. Others include Publish0x and Minds.
Not that the situation is all bad. Elon Musk exposed some of the hazards of a centralized social media platform. This includes the release of files that he claims will prove that governments influenced content moderation on Twitter and “encouraged” Twitter to disallow content that would make government agencies and the families of Democrat Party politicians like Joe Biden look bad.
There’s been speculation that the heavily-liberal Twitter workforce targeted conservatives with shadow bans and outright suspensions of accounts while ignoring content policy violations by liberal account holders.
Will Elon Musk truly step aside from Twitter, or will he just stick a puppet CEO in there to handle the day-to-day operations so he can focus on other important things like getting Tesla back on track and checking on progress on SpaceX’s Starship rocket? It remains to be seen. However, 52.7% of poll participants think he should at least step aside as Twitter CEO.