Elon Musk – the new king of Twitter

Now that he's bought it, what will Musk do to boost Twitter's profitability?
25 November 2022

Musk may now own Twitter – but for how long? NICHOLAS KAMM, Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Twitter used to be a calm place to escape the emotional storms of Facebook. But, today, Facebook is a sea of tranquillity compared to the goings-on in Twitter HQ. Much of that can be put down to the recent Twitter takeover by billionaire businessman, investor, and new champion tweeter, Elon Musk.

That’s right – after months and months of rumors, hints, and dark, deniable mutterings that Musk was going to buy Twitter, he finally did it.

But not without some last minute drama. He actually pulled out of his $44 billion deal earlier in 2022, leading the then-Twitter team, (most of whom he’s subsequently fired) to vow they would take legal action against the multibillionaire unless he went through with the agreed deal.

Understandably then, Musk came to his senses, or perhaps lost them altogether, and his acquisition of the social media platform was completed on October 27, 2022 – a full six months and thirteen days after the process began.

Road to a takeover

Rumours started to fly around the world (like fake news) in January 2022, when Musk began buying shares in Twitter. By April, he had become the leading shareholder of Twitter with a 9.1 percent ownership stake. The tweeting tides were starting to turn.

Fast forward to October 2022 and the weeks of chaos were about to begin.

Elon Musk had finally bought the platform for $44 billion, one of the biggest deals to take a company private in history. Finally, months of legal battles and controversy had come to an end. Now it was time for everyone to sit back and relax, Musk with his new company, the Twitter board of control with mountains of cash in their pockets, and the 396.5 million Twitter users ready to hail their new Messiah.

As it turns out, ignorance really IS bliss after all.

Reign of chaos

The following weeks saw mass lay-offs by Musk. The new Twitter owner likes to do things his own way, and as it’s earned him nearly $200 billion dollars, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

After just one week though, 50% of the company’s employees had been sacked. Like a new power-mad king, Musk’s first act was to fire the CEO Parag Agrawal, as well as other members of the leadership team. The Twitter Kingdom was being invaded (albeit legally) from within.

That led to a deep sense of unease, and then to several executives jumping off the seemingly sinking ship over the course of the next week. And, to rub salt in the wounds of the axed workers, most were laid off via email, reading that Twitter needed to “go through the difficult process of reducing [its] global workforce,” and that this move “is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”

Talk about a bad breakup!

In the last week, Musk has turned his attention to contract workers. Over 4,400 contract workers are now thought to have been axed, with many saying they received no notice from the company – in hindsight, an email turns out not to be the worst way to get fired.

The good news for some ex-employees is that they may not be exes for long. Elon Musk reportedly wants to backtrack on his frenzied layoffs and rehire some sacked employees. According to a Bloomberg report, Musk has asked some to return, probably via a text message reading “I miss you, I made mistakes, I promise it’s changed, please come back.”

Musk – the new Trump of Twitter

Musk has been extremely active on Twitter in the last week with some powerful tweets, including “By the People, for the people.” But those messages are unlikely to be directed to those with the sacred blue ticks of authentication next to their names.

There has been much furore over Musk’s announcement that there will now be a charge of $8 a month to be a verified Twitter user (all those accounts with blue ticks).

Many celebrities have voiced their dislike of this, including Stephen King, who tweeted “‘Musk makes me think of Tom Sawyer, who is given the job of whitewashing a fence as punishment. Tom cons his friends into doing the chore for him, and getting them to pay for the privilege. That’s what Musk wants to do with Twitter. No, no, no.’

You may think that $8 a month isn’t going to make much difference to King, but it’s the fact that being able to buy a monthly subscription to be verified throws away the authenticity of having the tick in the first place. In other words, any old Tom, Dick, and Harry can have a blue tick now, as long as they’re prepared to fork out $8 a month.

In fact, lots of users spent the cash to get fake Elon Musk accounts verified, to have satirical fun at the new owner’s expense – while making the point that now, anybody can be Elon Musk. Musk responded with zero humor, instigating a policy that all parody accounts must clearly state that they’re parody accounts or risk having their visibility significantly reduced. “Freedom of speech, not freedom of reach,” he tweeted by way of explanation.

Trump – the once and future king of Twitter?

One man who can certainly afford the prestigious blue tick is Donald Trump. The once serial tweeter’s account was suspended on January 8th, 2021. But, in the past, Musk has said that Trump’s ban was a mistake as it “alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.”

Musk also said that the reason he acquired Twitter is “because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.”

Trump’s account has now been reinstated, though the Covid-denier, insurrection-inspiration and former POTUS appears for now to see no reason to return to the platform. Whether that changes as he feels the need to win hearts and minds to his next Presidential run remains to be seen – this is Twitter in 2022, absolutely anything is possible.

Beware, Caesar!

Meanwhile Ilayda Şentürk, 21, a cosmetology student in Istanbul, recently discovered Elon Musk’s face in a pancake! Şentürk stated that she does not have a “special recipe,” and it is a “normal, ordinary pancake.”

It may not quite be the Ides of March, but given the time both he and Twitter have had since he took over the platform, a pancake with the face of Elon Musk might be warning enough for the next time he has to hold a staff meeting. It may also be the most sane and rational thing to happen to the Twitter boss in the last two weeks.