Funding Secured, What Elon Buying Twitter Means

April 26, 2022

Twitter is a strange company. It's so important that Elizabeth Warren sees Elon owning it as a threat to democracy - yet it doesn't make much money. Facebook is far more successful, with a market cap 11X larger than Twitter. Yet it was Twitter that took Donald Trump to the White House. Sure, Facebook played a role, but Twitter was where he built his base. When Twitter banned Trump it ignited massive debate on the power that tech companies wield. As much as it made many liberals happy, you have to ask if banning a sitting president was the right move.

That's the thing with Twitter, it has outsized influence. I used to work for a fintech startup. If you don't know much about the finance world, just know that anyone who's anyone uses Bloomberg as their data terminal. Now, this fintech I worked for was making a new data platform for traders. Part of their secret sauce was including Twitter data in their financial models. The Twitter data helps savvy traders make more money. Twitter is the finger on the pulse. It's news at the speed of light. It moves markets, it is markets.

Jack and Elon call Twitter the internet's public square.

So what does it mean when Elon Musk buys Twitter? Long-term, I don't know. Short-term, I also don't know. No one does. It could be the best thing to ever happen to Twitter, it could be the worst.

Elon's inevitable changes to Twitter could doom us all, or it could save humanity. Or, it'll hasten trends that are inevitable, like polarization. Maybe Elizabeth Warren is right. He'll doom democracy. Maybe democracy was always doomed to be a short-lived experiment that only lasted a few centuries. If a man buying a social network and making changes to it dooms democracy, then democracy was always too fragile.

Maybe Twitter never should have been a public company to begin with. The tech startup's goal was always to go public. That trend has softened, in part due to lackluster performance by some recent IPOs - Twitter included.

Public markets should care about long-term planning, but they mostly prioritize the short-term. If you're working on big, important long-term things the public market may not be the right choice.

What does this have to do with Twitter? I don't know. You could almost make a better case for Twitter becoming a public, global utility than Musk buying it.

Not that Musk doesn't have a decent track record at building a wide variety of successful companies. Speaking of Elon's superpowers, he accredits them to first principles thinking. He reduces things down to elemental truths, then builds back up from there. It was this style of thinking that built SpaceX on the principle of landing the rockets and reusing them.  

Rockets, finance (PayPal), and electric cars are simpler than human nature though, and Twitter is a place where human nature is on full display.

So why are people freaking out? Not everyone is freaking out, it's the progressive left. Why are they freaking out?

Well, they have a pretty decent stronghold of mainstream media. Twitter isn't mainstream media, though, it's new media. But it's employees were quite progressive. Elon buying the most influential new media platform is a threat to progressive control of the narrative. While many of my political views are progressive, not all of them are. I'm inclined to think that Elon's libertarian ideas of unfettered free speech may make the most sense. No political ideology should control the internet's public square. I'm for free debate, even if I sometimes see things that make me uncomfortable. I can always mute, block, or ignore people.

Twitter is the best and worst of the internet. You get what you're looking for. It has polarizing politics, shitposters, memes, and breaking news. It also has the most intelligent business people, enlightened philosophers, and whole niche communities of obscure topics. Twitter reflects humanity, the beautiful and ugly sides of it.

Elon Musk is often on the memeing, shitposting side of Twitter, but he likely understands the good sides. I hope his approach to free speech - while making many uncomfortable - helps bring us together. If so, he'll start a trend of tech execs pushing back on their progressive employee's demands. Or he's wrong and the progressives really are saving us all from ourselves.

We're beginning to see society move into a new era. Many facets of business, politics, and life are changing. Private vs public, progressive ascendancy or decline, free speech and democracy, these are what make this Twitter saga fascinating. Like always, it's Twitter that's at the center of the trends, keep an eye on them.

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