The relationship everyone loves to hate this season is back on again.
In the vast reality television program that is social media, Twitter stands out among all the rest.
Facebook, that is, Meta, has become the purview of Baby Boomers and advertisers. Instagram is little better, fewer Boomers and more advertisements, perhaps. Ditto Youtube. Those who really eschew social media use Pintrest and Next Door; no one over the age of 21 understands the appeal of TikTok.
Somewhere in the middle, there is Twitter.
Or, at least, for approximately 1 in 5 Americans, there is Twitter.
All Twitter estimates are approximate. Though Twitter’s board of directors insists only 5% of Twitter’s users are fake accounts and bots, almost no one believes that. Certainly not anyone who has paid for more Twitter followers.
To say so publicly is to casually accuse one of the biggest, most powerful and influential companies in the world of some pretty serious securities fraud. That hasn’t stopped thousands of Twitter users, media personalities and others from doing just that.
Ironically, one of Twitter’s biggest critics is also one of Twitter’s biggest, most vocal and longtime fans.
Elon Musk may not believe Twitter’s claim about less than 5% of Twitter users being fakes, but he does believe in Twitter.
In fact, Musk believes Twitter is the future of the free world. Whether or not he will buy Twitter, he has been a bit more circumspect.
The saga hasn’t been easy to follow from one news cycle to the next. First Musk was buying Twitter, for a handsome sum. Then, he was considering backing out of the deal, ostensibly holding out for more complete information about Twitter bots.
The on-again, off-again romance between Twitter and Elon Musk seemed doomed to disappointment. Then, like all dysfunctional couples, they were back together again, the deal back on.
“Elon Musk threatens to end Twitter deal without information on fake accounts,” announced the New York Times on June 6, 2022; “Mr. Musk’s lawyers said Twitter was ‘actively resisting’ his requests.”
“Elon Musk asserts his right to not buy Twitter,” echoed Axios.
“Twitter has, in fact, refused to provide the information that Mr. Musk has repeatedly requested since May 9, 2022 to facilitate his evaluation of spam and fake accounts on the company’s platform,” Musk’s lawyers wrote in a letter dated June 6, 2022. “Twitter’s latest offer to simply provide additional details regarding the company’s own testing methodologies, whether through written materials or verbal explanations, is tantamount to refusing Mr. Musk’s data requests.”
“Twitter’s effort to characterize it otherwise is merely an attempt to obfuscate and confuse the issue,” the letter continued. “Mr. Musk has made it clear that he does not believe the company’s lax testing methodologies are adequate so he must conduct his own analysis. The data he has requested is necessary to do so.”
“As Twitter’s prospective owner, Mr. Musk is clearly entitled to the requested data to enable him to prepare for transitioning Twitter’s business to his ownership and to facilitate his transaction financing,” Musk’s lawyers wrote. “To do both, he must have a complete and accurate understanding of the very core of Twitter’s business model — its active user base.”
“In any event, Mr. Musk is not required to explain his rationale for requesting the data, nor submit to the new conditions the company has attempted to impose on his contractual right to the requested data,” the letter read. “At this point, Mr. Musk believes Twitter is transparently refusing to comply with its obligations under the merger agreement, which is causing further suspicion that the company is withholding the requested data due to concern for what Mr. Musk’s own analysis of that data will uncover.”
“If Twitter is confident in its publicized spam estimates, Mr. Musk does not understand the company’s reluctance to allow Mr. Musk to independently evaluate those estimates,” Musk’s attorneys challenged.
As for Twitter’s board, first they hated Musk’s offer, his deal and certainly his promises to restore unrestricted speech on the platform. Once Musk looked likely to reject the acquisition, however, the board and Twitterati seemed insulted and suddenly determined the deal should go through after all.
While Musk has thrilled conservatives with his recent views on free speech, even promising to vote Republican at one point, he has also been outspoken about his support for the pro-choice movement. Tesla is one of the companies which has promised to pay health care costs and travel expenses associated with abortion and post-abortion care for employees.
That Musk has called progressive ideology, “woke mind virus,” in recent weeks can’t be much comfort to progressives hoping to keep certain viewpoints out of the public square. That Tesla has begun layoffs, including its head of LGBTQ+ and diversity initiatives, can’t be much comfort either.
What Elon Musk intends to do with Twitter, indeed if he even intends to go through with the sale, as he seems likely to do this week, might be the ultimate series cliffhanger.
Between now and that hypothetical day, anything could happen.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)