This story has been bubbling for a couple of weeks, but now it’s official: tech mogul Elon Musk is going to buy Twitter. The company accepted his $44bn offer to take the social network private, with Musk thus paying a 38% premium on Twitter’s valuation at the start of this month.
The deal will now have to be approved by Twitter’s shareholders, with related processes meaning that it may be several months before Musk gets the metaphorical keys to the company. Which at least gives the world and its suddenly-expert-on-the-thinking-of-Elon aunt plenty of time to give their hot takes on what the acquisition means.
Musk himself has offered some hints. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said in a statement. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”
(He also tweeted his hopes that “even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means”. Whether Musk’s conception of free speech has evolved to include criticism of his other companies like Tesla remains to be seen. Bed in for endless speculation about whether Donald Trump will get his Twitter account back too: for now the former president says he’s sticking to his own social network. We’ll see how long that lasts…)
In the meantime, bring on the hot takes. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey approves (“Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness. Elon’s goal of creating a platform that is ‘maximally trusted and broadly inclusive’ is the right one…”).
Meanwhile, Amazon founder (and Musk’s fierce space-phallus rival) Jeff Bezos is innocently wondering “did the Chinese governemnt just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” due to Tesla’s business interests in China. The Atlantic is pushing back against the naysayers by suggesting that “Musk buying Twitter could be good for Twitter“, while Platformer thinks that once the deal is done, even this billionaire may need to grapple with the platform’s economics more than he expects.
What will the music industry and artists make of all this? It’s far too early to tell whether a Musk-owned Twitter will be more willing to strike the kind of licensing deals and build the kind of copyright-protection tools that rightsholders have been looking for, for starters.
It’s also too early, despite some of the instant doom-takes out there, to assume that Musk’s ownership means a welcome mat for the return of the Nazis, trolls and alt-right provocateurs who Twitter’s current ownership drummed off the service.
If that does happen, we may see a corresponding drain of progressive-minded artists to other social platforms – and they have plenty to choose from. It’s less a case of Twitter potentially sliding into irrelevance, and more a case of who it will be relevant for, and how, under its new owner. Any understanding of that is months away.
Music Ally archive: Twitter