Analysis: Twitter was already in disarray. Trump’s return will only make it more chaotic

New York
CNN Business

With his decision on Saturday to restore former President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account nearly two years after his permanent ban, Elon Musk could throw Twitter deeper into chaos — and maybe that’s the point.

In the weeks since Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, the influential social network has laid off so many people that users and employees have expressed concerns about its ability to continue operating. It has also suffered a “massive drop in revenue”, according to Musk, as a growing number of brands suspend advertising amid uncertainty over the direction and stability of the platform.

Trump’s return won’t help either of them.

The company’s servers are “being put through a pretty heavy stress test by @elonmusk right now”, tweeted Sriram Krishnan, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and a former Twitter employee who works with Musk to run the company. (He also noted that Trump’s return comes a day before the World Cup kicks off, a high-traffic event for the platform.)

Also on Saturday, NAACP President Derrick Johnson issued an urgent warning to companies that continue to do business with Twitter: “Any advertiser who continues to fund Twitter must immediately suspend all advertising.”

Some advertisers previously indicated they could halt spending on the platform if Trump were to be reinstated, which could deal a further blow to a company that generates almost all of its revenue from advertising.

Prior to buying Twitter, Musk had repeatedly said he would reinstate Trump’s account and rethink the platform’s approach to permanent bans as part of his maximalist view of “free speech.” But Musk also sought to reassure brands and users that he would establish a “content moderation board” to determine whether Trump and other banned account holders would be brought back to the platform.

There is no indication that a group was even created, let alone involved in the decision to restore Trump. Instead, Musk tweeted out a poll on Friday, asking his followers to vote on whether or not to restore Trump’s account. “Yes” won, and Musk tweeted on Saturday, “The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Latin for “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”

If Musk has a strategy behind the decision and its timing, he seems to be betting chaos puts on a good show.

Through all the mass layoffs and staff departures, the controversial paid verification option introduced and removed, top brands and celebrities pulling out of the platform, and widespread criticism of his inflammatory remarks, Musk pointed out to many times that Twitter is reaching all-time highs in number of users.

Now add Trump to the mix.

Throughout his tenure as president, Trump has been the platform’s most high-profile and often controversial user, forcing Twitter to ponder how it should handle a sitting world leader taunting South Korea. North with threats of nuclear destruction (authorized) and encouraging a violent pro-Trump mob to attack the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 (which got it banned).

But Trump has also made Twitter the center of the known media and political universe. His tweets made headlines, moved markets and shaped the agenda in Washington. Celebrities, world leaders and a long list of critics and supporters have often engaged with Trump directly on Twitter. The world couldn’t look away.

It’s still unclear if Trump will tweet as often, or not at all, now that he has his own social network, Truth Social. And if he does, his tweets might not get as much attention as when he was sitting president. But Musk’s decision to bring Trump back also comes days after Trump announced he would run for president again, raising the likelihood that Trump’s remarks and tweets, if he posts them, will be not ignored.

Musk is clearly still in the early days of implementing his so-called Twitter 2.0. Besides reorganizing staff and racing to bolster Twitter’s bottom line through subscription products, it has yet to formalize its policies regarding bans and suspensions.

But one answer seems clear: Musk seems to be betting that if users can’t turn away from the platform, neither can advertisers. And with enough eyeballs on the site, he might be able to find new ways to make money from them.

All he has to do is find a way to keep the lights on.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button