Can Elon Musk’s arrival lead the social network to his loss?

The least we can say is that Elon Musk’s first few weeks at the helm of Twitter were eventful, even chaotic. Although the head of Tesla, who offered the social network for $44 billion, has never hidden his desire for radical change for the company with the blue bird, it only took twenty days to see the first effects.

And with good reason: With a loss of more than 4 million dollars a day, the Californian company is threatened with bankruptcy. Less than ten days after his arrival, Elon Musk therefore began downsizing, laying off half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. While some were thanked, others – company executives at odds with the new boss – announced their resignations. This is the case of Léa Kissner, head of social network security, Yoel Roth, responsible for customer trust, Damien Kieran, head of data protection, and Marianne Fogarty, their chief compliance officer.

Less moderation, more hate

More than the layoffs, it is the affected jobs that are a cause for concern. When he cut back within his own teams, the multi-billionaire also halted the contracts of thousands of subcontractors who deal with moderating content on Twitter. A measure that makes Virginie Clève, consultant for digital strategy, fear an increase in uncensored messages: “The risk of spreading hate messages is great. It is to be expected that some of them will not be deleted or will only be deleted with a delay,” she explains, recalling that moderation is one of the recurring criticisms of the social network. But the new boss wanted to reassure, assuring that “Twitter’s commitment to content moderation remains unchanged”.

But at a time when moderation is one of the prime themes of the digital, Elon Musk’s project is misplaced, warns Emmanuelle Patry, founder of Social Media Lab: “He’s a supposed libertarian, he repeated what he wanted to do several times Twitter a space for total freedom of expression. But it is contrary to the fight against hate phenomena on the Internet,” estimates the expert, who fears that Twitter will “not become an alternative social network with a concentration of right-wing extremists and fake news”. And it must be said that Elon Musk’s initiatives tend not to reassure users and investors. Such is the case with Twitter Blue, a new $8-a-month subscription that allows you to get your account certified regardless of your notoriety. Launched in early November and since temporarily suspended, this formula allows anyone to apply for certification previously reserved for public figures, media and brands.

But the offer quickly caused discord and led to the creation of thousands of fake accounts. Among these impersonations are figures such as Georges W. Bush, Joe Biden, LeBron James or even Elon Musk himself. The situation even became alarming when a verified account impersonating pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly published a tweet stating that his “Insulin now free”. The message, which immediately went viral, was not removed until two hours later, causing the company’s stock to collapse but also patient dismay. “It’s symbolic, but the blue badge when it was created when Twitter started, it was awarded to verified media and journalists. They wanted to turn Twitter into an editorial platform. Elon Musk does the opposite. He believes that the media’s word must be on the same level as that of citizens, but that can be problematic with fake news,” decodes Emmanuelle Patry.

A lack of strategy

The billionaire’s fantasies didn’t stop there. On November 9, it introduced an “official” badge to distinguish paid certified accounts – the famous “Twitter Blue” – from public interest accounts such as governments, media, and big brands, as well as the most prominent personalities. In other words, a badge intended to guarantee the authenticity of these accounts… Exactly the same function as the previous blue badge. A feature that disappeared early in the afternoon before reappearing a few hours later. “Please note that Twitter will be doing a lot of stupid things in the coming months. We’ll keep what works and change what doesn’t,” the billionaire said simply.

Our two experts find round trips that are completely without strategy: “It’s chaotic. He throws things on the fly, he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing,” explains Emmanuelle Patry. For Virginie Clève, Elon Musk is “a compulsive user of Twitter, a fan of the social network who thinks that makes him an expert”, decodes the consultant, who compares the billionaire to “a crazy dog ​​with a new toy”.

These hasty initiatives also alarmed the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC): “We are following the recent developments on Twitter with great concern. No CEO or company is above the law,” a spokesman said in a rare warning, threatening the platform with hefty fines if they fail to comply with privacy regulations. Could the American authority go so far as to shut down the social network? “It could happen, but the pressure should be enough for Elon Musk to comply with the rules. They won’t let go,” Emmanuelle Patry said.

Advertisers and users are fleeing

Advertisers are probably the biggest concern. Some, like Chipotle, General Motors, Volkswagen or even United Airlines, have suspended their advertising campaigns. Others, such as advertising agencies such as Omnicom – which represents Apple, PepsiCo or McDonald’s – or the Interpublic Group (Coca-Cola, Unilever, American Express, Nintendo or Spotify) or the French group Havas have advised their clients to temporarily stop investing in Twitter . “Advertisers today no longer want to be associated with anxious or problematic content, they are afraid of bad buzz,” analyzes Virgine Clève. If the situation is alarming, it’s because the platform derives almost 90% of its revenue from advertising. “Financial collapse is the biggest risk facing Twitter right now,” Emmanuelle Patry said.

After advertisers, users could also decide to leave Twitter and turn to another social network, such as LinkedIn or Mastodon, explains the founder of Social Media Lab. Between October 27 and November 1, more than 875,000 users deactivated their accounts, according to estimates by Bot Sentinel, a platform that studies unusual behavior on Twitter.

“What made it successful was its community of journalists, politicians, geeks and big bosses. If this community loses trust in the tool, if the service deteriorates or if the network’s DNA disappears, it will be very difficult to catch up,” analyzes Emmanuelle Patry. For the professional, the new CEO must reassure users: “If he piles up emotional decisions, Twitter could become a minor and Elon Musk could also decide to close the company himself.” For Virginie Clève, the situation is worrying if it is too soon, predict the future of Twitter. “Does Elon Musk direct him sign his death warrant? It is possible “.

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