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twitter: Elon’s $44 Billion Meme

Twitter. Photo by Greenwish.
Twitter. Photo by Greenwish.

Who would have thought that running a social media platform would be easy? Billionaire business magnate Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and, more recently, Twitter.

Musk began to court Twitter in early 2022 when he purchased a nine per cent total stake. He’d publicly stated his concern over the platform’s censorship of users. By April 13, he submitted an official offer to purchase the entire company for a staggering $44 billion at $54.20 a share and, being 38 per cent above the active stock price at the time, Twitter’s executive board accepted.

In the following months there was a lengthy back and forth between Musk and Twitter in which he would attempt to back out of the deal. Musk would accuse Twitter of providing false or misleading information regarding their active user base citing his concerns for the high number of bots on the platform, claims which were later refuted.

Regardless of his attempts to pull out, Musk was forced to complete the deal and on October 28, the purchase of Twitter for $44 billion was completed. Musk celebrated this occasion by walking into Twitter HQ with a kitchen sink and later tweeting “Comedy is now legal on Twitter.”

With declining revenue Twitter has not been a profitable company since 2019. It didn’t take long before Musk was making drastic changes to the company and platform to change this. Over half of the 7,500 employees at Twitter were fired, including many from the human resources, communications and AI ethics departments. The curation department was severely downsized to follow Musk’s new directive of a social media platform free of censorship. In addition to the staff that were let go, a reported 1,200 employees also resigned.

The sales and marketing departments also fell victim to staff cuts, which caused issues when 50 of the top 100 advertisers on Twitter cut their campaigns entirely, with concerns of their brands sharing a platform with uncurated and problematic content. These companies had reportedly spent $2 billion in 2021, or 40 per cent of Twitter’s $5 billion revenue.

On more than one occasion, Musk has attempted to rehire staff that were dismissed to help address some of these issues.

Looking for additional sources of revenue, Musk introduced a subscription model called Twitter Blue that would replace the current Twitter Verification service. Before the change users would be manually verified and given a blue checkmark in their profile beside their name. This would indicate to readers that the account and tweets would be from the actual user or company. The new model would instead allow the account to purchase the blue verification check mark as a subscription instead of having it be manually checked by staff. This resulted in the creation of numerous fake and parody accounts, many of which were impersonating Musk himself. A policy was
sent out shortly after that allowed Twitter to ban accounts that would abuse the checkmark system with fake accounts.

It’s only been a few short months since the purchase of Twitter and the issues have permeated into other aspects of Musk’s business as he is embroiled in a heated legal battle with Tesla shareholders, who’ve seen a major drop in stock price since his Twitter takeover.

While we prepare ourselves for the next disruption to Twitter, we’re left to speculate on why Musk purchased Twitter in the first place. Did Musk really think he was the only one who could save the struggling social media giant? Or perhaps it was a joke that was taken too seriously, an internet meme that turned into a very expensive reality.