Hiltzik: Can Twitter be saved from Musk?

Dear Elon,

You don’t know me, though we met once, in a group interview at SpaceX headquarters in 2016. I wanted to talk about your plan to colonize Mars, but apart from that, I expected the atmosphere of a serious, thoughtful corporate leader.

You and I don’t share much, but one thing we do do share is devotion to Twitter, even though I beat you to signing up for the platform for two months – me in April 2009, you in June of that year.

Twitter needs to get rid of Musk if it is to survive.

It is true that we use Twitter for different purposes. You tweet to crack jokes (the bolder the better), to strike back at your opponents (real or imagined), to float fleeting fantasies and inject yourself into political debate.

I use Twitter for information. Twitter is the first app I check at the start of the day and the last before I drift off to sleep.

I get column ideas, promote my work and enrich the efforts of others. The accounts I follow point me to interesting books I can’t afford to miss. It is my early warning system for developing events and a reliable barometer of what pundits and wise men think. There are also pictures of dogs.

It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. We obviously love Twitter despite its flaws and flaws. I don’t think any of us want to see failure. It seems to be going in that direction, but I think it can be saved.

Hence, I am making this one-time only offer to save Twitter. I’ll take a shot at that, but only if you’re willing to live up to my terms.

First, some context. Twitter’s problem is clear. Not that she has too many employees, too many drivers, too many content moderation, too many bot fake accounts or any of the other things she says are her problems.

The problem is you.

Already, people are wondering if your intention is to destroy the platform; All I can say about it is that your actions so far are indistinguishable from what you would do if you deliberately destroyed it.

You made the mistake common among people of your economic class who are accustomed to accepting their whims, no matter how self-destructive: you think the whole world lives down your street.

The vast majority of Twitter users don’t think of it the same way you do. They want it to be a useful platform, not hateful, and certainly not an arena for hateful behaviour.

You set the tone for the rhetoric on the podium, and your tone is foul. Your profile has been famous for promoting an ugly conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi, Retweet Nazi images and insulting a US senator who could have a major impact on the future of Twitter.

Tesla and SpaceX have been treated lightly by government regulators and funding agencies. You should now realize that the landscape has changed under your feet.

The current federal administration has indicated that it will take a tougher line on enforcement. That includes the Federal Trade Commission, which has made clear it intends to bind Twitter to its obligations to protect user privacy — and fined the company $150 million in May for breaking its precious promises.

Your usual approach to management, as summed up by my colleague Ross Mitchell—personal insults, insensitivity to racial and gender issues, carelessness about workplace safety—doesn’t work for employees for whom those issues are important and who can walk out of the house anywhere. time and to be recruited for their skills by other local employers.

You’re not a trained engineer, even though you’ve given yourself that title at SpaceX, and when the experts on staff contradict your snap judgments about operating technology, firing them doesn’t get you where you and Twitter need to go.

Nor are policies intended to protect advertisers from being identified as racist or Nazi. Your failure to promptly respond to Eli Lilly’s complaints about a parody Twitter account could cost Twitter millions of dollars in advertising.

For these and other reasons, Twitter needs to get rid of Musk if it is to survive. There’s a lot at stake, not least of which is your own investment of $44 billion in cash and debt incurred upon your acquisition of the company.

This means that you have to move away from the platform by turning it over to a new, independent management team. Your friends who ransack the place, disrupt the workforce, and show their ignorance at every turn about how to run an online social platform should be gone. Fired personnel with mission-critical knowledge and skills should be lured back.

Most importantly, you’ll miss Twitter.

I’d be willing to step in, but on conditions.

here they are.

A: First of all, I’m asking for a five-year contract at $10 million a year. The contract can only be terminated on my own initiative. The entire five-year sum in escrow shall, upon signing of this contract, be placed in an interest-bearing account under the control of a neutral party and cashed quarterly. This is necessary to immunize myself and my team from hasty and hasty decision making.

All hiring and firing decisions will be under my sole authority, although they may be delegated at my discretion. You will have no authority to override my decisions about technology, human resources, capital expenditures, moderation policies – including decisions to suspend, terminate or restore accounts – marketing and other operational aspects of running the business.

B: You will immediately stop tweeting, subject to the following exception:

I must approve all of your Tweets in writing before they are posted. There will be no tolerance for violations of this provision. You can request approval of up to four Tweets per calendar month.

There will be no Twitter subscription fee. There will be no fee for identity verification (ie blue check mark). These charges work against the development of Twitter as a safe publishing environment.

These terms reflect the need to accept certain domestic truths and tough love. If Twitter wants to survive, it cannot continue to alienate advertisers and users.

The platform must become a place where consumer companies feel confident that their brands will not be associated with racism, anti-Semitism, hate, and other negative expressions of American identity. A platform doesn’t need to be soothing – it can still be edgy, not offensive.

This means that the Terms of Service must be clear, explicit, and enforceable. They are not now, in part because of you.

Now the only way Twitter can survive is for advertisers and users to be confident that you have no say in how it works. Twitter needs a truly independent CEO who does not report to you in any way and is not under your oversight.

I should have mentioned that to enforce these terms, you would have to put $50 million into the same escrow account mentioned above, to be disbursed upon any violation of the terms, including unauthorized tweeting, unsolicited advice on policies or personnel, or any defamation of Twitter. . or its employees or executives in any forum. The exchange will also be triggered if you file any lawsuit in any court to cancel this contract.

Twitter may, after all, not be salvageable. You may not make a profit in the next five years. Its annual losses may not diminish, and may even increase even more. But it’s pretty clear that the longer you’re on Twitter, the worse things will get.

I have to admit that I am definitely the wrong person to take this responsibility. After all, I’ve never been the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. Feel free to choose someone else. But any candidate capable of upending Twitter would make the same demands to prove their credibility, or else they wouldn’t be worth hiring.

You can bet on that.

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