19 December 2022

Elon Musk and Twitter: What could happen now?

19 December 2022

Twitter users have voted in favour of Elon Musk stepping down as the head of the social media giant just two months after taking over the platform.

The billionaire’s short tenure so far has seen a number of controversial decisions, but what could this latest move mean for the site’s future?

Here is a look at what could happen next.

– What if Musk steps down?

Some commentators have suggested that very little may actually change if Mr Musk does give up his role as chief executive of Twitter because he still owns the company and ultimately can have the final say on any major decisions.

Indeed, Mr Musk said earlier this year during a court case linked to Tesla that he expected to “find somebody else to run Twitter” and “reduce” his own time at the company eventually – so this latest move could have always been part of his ownership plan.

But it is still likely that increasing the distance between himself and the platform would affect how quickly and drastically the site changes going forward.

A different chief executive in place – no matter who it was – could have the ability to balance the substantial and often hectic shift in policy that has occurred since Mr Musk’s arrival.

This has included allowing suspended accounts to return, restructuring the verification process, and softening Twitter’s approach to content moderation – all of which have drawn criticism.

There have been reports that shareholders in Mr Musk’s other firms would be happier with someone else being in charge of the day-to-day decisions of Twitter to prevent further damage to the Tesla boss’ wider credibility, business portfolio and shareholders’ own returns.

This structure change could help temper some of Mr Musk’s policy urges and avoid some of the confusion which has so far defined his reign – such as the introduction of the Twitter Blue paid-for verification system, which was launched, rolled back and then launched again at a later date.

Concerns have also been raised about Mr Musk’s habit of using Twitter polls to decide on major platform decisions, a process it has been argued is far from scientific and open to manipulation by coordinated bot accounts on the site.

Any replacement for Mr Musk would likely be encouraged to not use such a public and unpredictable process for major policymaking.

But until it is known who, if anyone, will take on the chief executive position instead of Mr Musk, it is difficult to predict how Twitter could change.

– And what if he decides to stay on?

A U-turn would not be an unusual move for the entrepreneur – over the weekend he appeared to reverse a controversial policy change at Twitter which intended to stop the sharing of links to certain rival social media platforms.

Tweets from an official Twitter account and a webpage detailing the new policy were deleted and Mr Musk apologised, showing he is capable of going back on plans even after they go live.

So a sudden decision to ignore the poll result is not out of the question, but it does seem unlikely given that he has followed other polling results when he’s used the tool in the past, often while referencing a Latin phrase that speaks of the “voice of the people”.

Should he choose to stay in post, however, he is likely to face more criticism and scrutiny than ever over his running of the company, including from regulators around the world and Tesla shareholders, who have seen stock values slide in the aftermath of Mr Musk’s Twitter takeover.

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