What Elon Musk’s private messages say about the future of Twitter

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Elon Musk wants to buy back Twitter. Now, yes. This is the brief chronology of this case: in April he bought 9% of the company. He accepted and then resigned to enter the shareholders’ meeting. Shortly after, he signed an agreement to buy it in its entirety for 44,000 million. In May he backed down. Twitter took him to court to enforce that agreement, which was due to start on October 17. Musk himself was supposed to testify yesterday, Thursday, but it was postponed.

Tonight it has been known that the trial has been postponed until October 28 so that both parties can negotiate.

It remains to be seen if Musk will want to dance more. But the consensus among journalists with direct sources in Silicon Valley is that Musk has opted for the lesser evil: take on the purchase before lengthening a process that was going to drain his energy and that he had more options to lose. In November he aspires, for example, to launch the new SpaceX rocket, which should take us to Mars at some point. It’s more important.

In the end, it is less laborious for him to spend 44,000 billion and appoint himself as interim head of Twitter than to prepare for a trial that looks bad.

There is another issue that Musk may be concerned about. Late last week, the court released hundreds of private messages between Musk and a motley crew of Silicon Valley luminaries. His reading is fascinating. Yesterday the judge in the case said that not all of them were there. Musk uses Signal, which self-destructs messages and does not respond to requests from authorities. The hypothetical recovery of more messages can unsettle Musk and his friends.

The posted messages give a glimpse into the intimate discussions of a Silicon Valley hard core, which basically includes billionaires and wannabes. Among all these messages there are some entertaining, others revealing and even more that help to understand what Musk wants from Twitter. This is what comes out of it:

1. “I think no one should be anyone’s boss”

Musk appears as a correct guy, not very strident: “I hate being the boss.” he says. “I think no one should be anyone’s boss. But I love helping solve technical problems.” He says that he likes the Russian network RT: “I really like their news. Lots of crap, but also good arguments,” he writes.

He also explains that he hopes to work for a few months without an assistant: “Jehn had a son and I have decided not to have an assistant for a few months.” A Twitter executive offers to meet him at an Airbnb for a meeting and warns him that there are tractors and donkeys on the property: “Haha incredible. Maybe the Airbnb algorithm thinks you like tractors and donkeys (who doesn’t!) ”He doesn’t use the laughing emoji, although he uses others.

Most of the messages are from people who admire, cheer on, or rail against Musk. Nobody coughs at him. It’s a long line of uncontrolled admirers: “My sword is yours,” says investor Jason Calacanis, who is the stickiest and is even running to be CEO of Twitter: “It would be my dream job.” He sends him lists of ideas that Musk omits. Minus the proposal to drastically reduce the Twitter template, which makes him more funny.

2. “We need a new platform”

At the end of March, Musk tweets: “Since Twitter functions as the public square, not adhering to the principles of free speech undermines democracy. What should be done? Is a new platform needed?

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and boss until November 2021, writes to him: “Yes. It can’t be a company. That’s why I left.” Musk asks how it should be. Dorsey replies with a long message: it must be an open protocol, like Signal, without advertisements, without a centralized entity behind it. Musk tells him: “Super interesting idea” and “I’d like to help.” The absence of publicity pleases Musk.

3. “Is 1,000 million good for you? Best 2,000″

With the tweet from the platform, more messages begin to arrive. One is from Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle: “I don’t think we need another Twitter,” he tells her. With Ellison, Musk has one of the craziest trades. A few weeks after that first message, Musk asks if he’s still interested in getting into the Twitter buy: “What dollar amount roughly?” Musk asks. And Ellison: “1,000 million, or whatever you recommend.” Musk responds in the same tone that the rest of humanity talks about sharing the lottery: “Whatever works for you. I would recommend 2,000 or more. It has a lot of potential.”

Ellison tells him on top: “I agree and it would be very funny.” In all of humanity there are perhaps less than 10 people who, if they have 2,000 million, would find it “very fun” to invest it in a company.

4. “But why don’t you buy Twitter?”

There are also Europeans who have ideas. Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer, which controls Bild and Politico, asks Musk directly to buy Twitter: “We take care of it for you,” he continues. “We establish a platform of freedom of expression. It would be a real contribution to democracy.” Musk replies: “Interesting idea.” He commits little.

Days later, Döpfner is the author of the longest message in the entire database, with a list of points to fix Twitter. The first is to “fix freedom of expression.” How? The terms of service “which are now hundreds of pages” should be reduced to three things: no spam or scams, no promoting violence, no illegal porn. The rest are ideas similar to turning Twitter into a protocol open to various algorithms. Musk doesn’t seem attracted.

5. “Do something against liberals”

One of the most commented messages is from an unknown author. (There are messages whose authors are blacked out.) “It will be a tricky game to let the right-wingers go back to Twitter and how to navigate it (especially the boss himself) [alleged reference to Donald Trump]. I would put the rules in soon and have someone with political and cultural savvy to be vice president of compliance,” he tells her. That vice president could be “someone like Blake Masters,” who is a Trump candidate for senator from Arizona who hails from Peter Thiel’s group in Silicon Valley.

There are several messages asking Musk, for example, to do “something against progressives”, from someone also censored. Joe Rogan, the podcaster accused of racism and anti-vaccines, asks you to “free Twitter from the censorship mob.”

This is the most repeated point: it seems that Trump and his entourage will return. Likely: “It would be great if permanent bans were relaxed, except for spam accounts and those who advocate explicit violence,” Musk writes to current Twitter boss Parag Agrawal. And shortly after: “Twitter should move to the center.”

But will Musk undo Twitter’s community standards and allow the law of the jungle? Musk may be many things, but spending 20% ​​of his assets on a company to turn it into a drain is hard to believe.

6. “What have you done this week?”

There is only one bad moment in the messages and it is dedicated to Agrawal. In the initial messages between the two they seem to get along well. They talk engineer to engineer, Jack Dorsey supports Agrawal’s work. Musk first says a handful of niceties like “I have a ton of ideas, but let me know if I push you too hard. I just want Twitter to be ‘awesome max’ [sic]” or “I’d like to understand the technical details of Twitter’s code base. That way I can better gauge the stupidity of my proposals.”

Then comes Musk’s famous tweet: “Is Twitter dying?” Agrawal tells him that doesn’t help. Musk responds with one of the worst questions a future boss can ask: “What have you been up to this week?” It is taken for granted that if Musk buys Twitter, Agrawal goes home. Something happened between them. Even Dorsey admitted with Musk that they could no longer work together.

7. “I have two ideas”

In the hot days of his spring purchase, Musk tossed out a couple of thoughts. First for his famous superapp, about which he continues to tweet, similar to the Chinese WeChat: messages, payments, social network. “I have an idea for a blockchain social media system that does both payments and short text messages/links like Twitter. You have to pay a small amount to register the message in the thread, which would eliminate most spam and bots. There is no bottleneck so freedom of expression is guaranteed,” he first wrote.

And then: “My plan B is a blockchain-based version of Twitter. You would have to pay maybe 0.1 doges a Musk-promoted crypto per comment or repost of that comment.”

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