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

New York
CNN Business

With his decision Saturday to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account nearly two years after it was permanently banned, Elon Musk could plunge Twitter deeper into chaos — and that might be the point.

In the weeks since Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, the influential social network has shed so many staff that users and employees have raised 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 stop advertising amid uncertainty about the platform’s direction and stability.

Trump’s return will not help either issue.

The company’s servers are “undergoing quite a bit of stress testing by @elonmusk right now.” he tweeted Sriram Krishnan, a general partner at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and a former Twitter employee who is working 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 Saturday, NAACP President Derrick Johnson sent an urgent warning to companies still working with Twitter: “Any advertiser still funding Twitter should immediately cease all advertising.”

Some advertisers have previously said they could halt spending on the platform if Trump is reinstated, potentially dealing a further blow to a company that generates almost all of its revenue from advertising.

Before buying Twitter, Musk had repeatedly said he would reinstate Trump’s account and reconsider the platform’s approach to permanent bans as part of his maximalist vision for “free speech.” But Musk also sought to reassure brands and users that he would create a “content oversight board” to determine whether Trump and other banned account holders would be reinstated on the platform.

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

If Musk has any strategy behind the decision and its timing, he seems to be betting that chaos makes for a good show.

Through all the mass layoffs and staff departures, the controversial paid verification option introduced and withdrawn, high-profile brands and celebrities pulled from the platform, and widespread criticism for his inflammatory comments, Musk has repeatedly emphasized that the Twitter is hitting all-time highs in user numbers.

Now, add Trump to the mix.

Throughout his tenure as president, Trump has been the most high-profile and often the most controversial user on the platform, forcing Twitter to consider how it should handle a sitting world leader who taunts North Korea with threats of nuclear annihilation (allowed) and encouraging a violent pro-Trump mob to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 (which he banned).

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

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

Musk is clearly still in the early days of creating the so-called Twitter 2.0. In addition to reorganizing staff and struggling to boost Twitter’s performance through subscription products, it has yet to formalize its policies on bans and suspensions.

But one answer seems clear: Musk seems to be betting that if users can’t opt ​​out of the platform, neither can advertisers. And with enough eyes on the site, he might just be able to find new ways to monetize them.

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

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