Donald Trump back on Twitter could kill Elon Musk’s social media company as advertisers flee
This does not happen. Musk has since said nothing about any advice and instead decided Trump’s fate with a Twitter poll, which he likely suspected would go in favor of the twice-impeached former president who helped spur the U.S. Capitol uprising on January 6. (Much of Musk’s loyal fanbase falls on the right of the political spectrum; the billionaire also recently said that Americans should vote Republican.)
His poll garnered 15 million votes, with 51.8% recommending Trump’s reinstatement.
The the former president’s account is now available to visit, and it is also inactive. Trump may be wondering what to do. He has a financial incentive to support his own social media platform, Truth Social, and said he won’t return to Twitter because he has “a lot of problems”.
But Trump is not a man of his word either. Truth Social is tiny, and it’s hard for those with big egos to resist the lure of a bigger bullhorn with a constant feedback loop.
If Trump starts tweeting, it could spell another descent for the site. About 75% of Twitter’s staff and most of its content moderators have left the company since Musk took over, either through layoffs or resignations, and there could be more to come on Monday. US time, according to Bloomberg News.
It could spell initial trouble as a flood of visitors pour in to scroll through the latest news on Trump and the World Cup, which kicked off on Sunday. Twitter’s infrastructure engineers, reduced to a reduced team, will work overtime to ensure that the site remains operational.
More problematic, a second act of tweeting from Trump could trigger a surge in offensive posts, similar to the rise in hate speech that occurred right after Musk took the reins.
An addiction to getting more attention
How does this align with Musk’s goals? It seems like he’s creating a platform for unfettered free speech that’s light on the consequences for the worst behavior. But he also seems to be carried away by what Twitter’s algorithms do best: an addiction to getting more attention on Twitter.
Musk has touted the site’s growing popularity since taking office, tweeting last week that Twitter usage had reached an “all-time high” and then posting a graph showing an increase in daily users. “The recent trend is promising,” he said.
For Musk, all the extra activity on Twitter indicates success. But that’s not actually going to help Twitter’s financially precarious situation with advertisers, many of whom have suspended ads on the platform over concerns about uneven content moderation and toxic posts.
An analysis by GroupM, the world’s largest ad buying agency, warned last week that Twitter – which derives 90% of its revenue from advertising – had become too “high risk”. He advised customers to stay away until the platform improves its content moderation strategy, according to a GroupM document seen by Bloomberg Opinion.
Musk seems to have forgotten the age-old mirage that disappoints many social media influencers, which is that online popularity doesn’t necessarily make money. The 4chan image board has tens of millions of visitors and has generated strong movements online, but generates relatively little ad revenue. The reason: no brand wants to be associated with a website once dubbed the “internet jerk”.
Twitter isn’t quite the hellish landscape that 4chan is, but with so few people to weed out toxic posts that break its rules just as one of the site’s biggest rule breakers returns, it’s points in this rather unpleasant direction.
Parmy Olson is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. A former journalist from The Wall Street Journal and Forbesshe is the author of We are anonymous.