What you need to know:
"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. Unless acted upon by external forces such as digital legal requirements from the USA and European Union, users envisage that Musk will create a “more liberal Twitter with new ideas.”
To make sense of Elon Musk’s business philosophy, one needs to refer to the works of Joseph SchumPeter on the concept of creative destruction coined in 1942.
SchumPeter, an Austrian born political economist, believed at every business cycle in the product and process innovation, new production units must replace outdated ones, which he considered an “essential fact about capitalism.”
Elon Musk: Smasher of elites or self-serving pragmatist?
From his electric car manufacturing company – Tesla to his plans to colonise planet Mars in the space exploration race - and now to Twitter, Musk, a South African born in the ranks of America’s billionaires, has been described as a man who epitomises destroying the old and creating the new.
The creative destruction concept, according to Dennis Aguma, a tech analyst and founder of nase Africa could spill over to Twitter, an American microblogging and social networking platform with over 230 million users.
Musk buys Twitter
Last week, Musk with an estimated net worth of $265 billion according to Forbes magazine latest rankings, clinched a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion cash in a transaction.
The Reuters news agency described the transaction as “a shift of control of the social media platform populated by millions of users and global leaders to the world’s richest person.”
The transaction, according to a published statement by Twitter on April 25 stated the deal will close this year upon satisfaction of other customary closing conditions, which were not stated.
Social media users have expressed concerns on whether a Musk takeover of Twitter could lead to relaxing of content restrictions, and a more hands- off approach to moderation.
Unlike its peers like Facebook, Twitter has been described by some users as “restrictive” in expressing themselves with a restriction on the number of characters one can tweet.
The social platform allows 280 characters close to 40 – 70 words with spaces included for a Tweet, but this limit is half to 140 characters for Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages, a change that Twitter made in November 2017. Audio and video tweets remain limited to 140 seconds or 2 minutes and 20 seconds for most accounts.
Ali Rosen, a product manager at Twitter wrote in 2017 that historically, 9 percent of tweets in English hit the character limit of 140 characters which necessitated the company to increase it to 280 characters.
At the time, using 140 characters, according to Rosen, reflected the challenge of fitting a thought into a tweet, often resulting in lots of time spent editing and even at times abandoning tweets before sending them.
“With the expanded character count, this problem was massively reduced – that number dropped to only 1 percent of tweets running up against the limit. Since we saw tweets hit the character limit,” she noted.
Rosen explained that the 280 character limit gave people more space, and they spent less time editing their tweets in the composer.
This showed that more space made it easier for people to fit thoughts in a tweet, so they could say what they wanted to say, and sent tweets faster than before.
But again, more Twitter users still find using the 280 characters restrictive, but on a lighter side Twitter allows one to freely express themselves through multiple messages known as threads.
The more pressing question has been why Twitter doesn’t allow its users to make edits to their posts once tweeted giving leeway to grammatical mistakes.
A month ago, Twitter announced its plans of adding the ‘Edit’ button in a short tweet that stated: “Yes, we’ve been working on an edit feature since last year! We’re kicking off testing within @TwitterBlue Labs in the coming months to learn what works, what doesn’t, and what’s possible!”
Will Musk upstage the status quo and allow content moderation on Twitter? It is a question that the billionaire has provided in hints in a series of tweets after the transaction was sealed.
“Let’s make Twitter fun!” he tweeted.
In another recent tweet which doubled as an official statement, Musk wrote: “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 pledged to make Twitter “better than ever” by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust and determine what users see in their feed, defeating spam bots with fake user accounts or stolen social media accounts, and authenticating all humans.
Unless acted upon by external forces such as digital legal requirements from the USA and European Union, users envisage that Musk will create a “more liberal Twitter with new ideas.”
Aguma, a tech analyst and founder of nase Africa is of the view that Musk being a South African and business minded person could buy into the African tech space especially for individuals with disruptive tech ideas and startups.
Stephen Obed, a tech entrepreneur running Kweli Shop, an e-commerce platform, says despite Twitter being a conversational platform, the entrance of Elon Musk will make more business sense for the platform.
For now, the key limitation that Twitter has, at least according to Obed, is that a lot of content covers up business and marketing promotional engagements.
Unlike Facebook where promotional content can be optimised for a user, Obed says any promotional content on Twitter gets swamped by other conversations such as news, gossip, or politics rendering the message irrelevant.
With finer details of the transaction being inked for Elon Musk’s eventual takeover, the world awaits with bated breath on what the billionaire has to offer.