What Will Elon Musk Do With Twitter? Kara Swisher Explains His Groundbreaking Purchase

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There’s a new sheriff in town.

It’s official: Elon Musk has reached a deal to buy Twitter. The $44 billion sale of the social news platform to Musk, one of the wealthiest and most controversial men on earth, has shocked millions. But what does it mean, exactly, for the future of the social platform?

To answer this question and many more, Katie conducted an Instagram Live with Kara Swisher, an American journalist, New York Times op-ed writer, and host of the podcast host, Sway. You can watch the interview and catch some highlights from the conversation below.

Katie Couric: What do you make of this news about Elon Musk? Are you surprised by this?

Kara Swisher: I’m not surprised. Someone was going to buy it, because Twitter has been sitting there, not performing, for many years. It has not grown the way others have. Facebook ran past, and then Snapchat ran past, and then TikTok absolutely ran past. And so it’s been sort of this disappointing child of social media for a long time.

And as a business, it’s a terrible business. It doesn’t do very well in advertising. It doesn’t do very well on subscriptions. Its product innovation has been slow. It pretty much looks a lot like when it started while everybody else moved forward.

Honestly, they could have done a lot of things many years ago to change it, but they didn’t. And now Elon is here and he certainly has the ability to do things. We know that about Elon Musk.

Why did Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?

Well, what things do you like, Katie? What did you just buy that you liked?

He’s the richest person in the world. He likes it. Plus, he’s a great user of the product, and that’s a great thing. And no matter what, a lot of the board members just didn’t use the product.

He’s going to invest his own money in it. He’s putting his money at Tesla at risk, his stock at Tesla at risk, which is a really big risk because if the stock goes down, he’s going to hurt probably the greatest thing he’s ever done, which is to create Tesla. So, he clearly wants it.

I mean, does the guy even have the time to run Twitter?

I think he’s got a lot of bandwidth. You know, he’s got a lot of friends, a lot of people who support him. So I suspect he’s going to spend a lot of time on this. And he probably feels Tesla’s in pretty good shape, and that SpaceX is in pretty good shape. The Boring Company is moving along — hyperloop is moving along.

And he obviously has an allyship of some sort with Jack Dorsey, the Twitter founder who got sort of zeroed out there recently by a bunch of activists. So, he’s got a lot of people working with him.

Can you describe where Twitter was, in terms of sussing out bad, extremist, disinformation content? What was the policy there?

Honestly, Katie, it was badly enforced. They had a lot of rules, but they were very haphazard. As you saw with Donald Trump, for example, they were very slow to discipline him on things they discipline other people for. They took people off for certain things, and they didn’t take other people off for doing those same things. That’s because it’s almost impossible. They don’t have the staff or money. Facebook can’t do it, and they’ve got money coming out of their eyeballs.

So, this is not a company that had a lot of resources. They also didn’t care about it for a long time. Twitter was the original free speech platform. And then they realized there was a lot of toxicity and they tried to create healthy conversations. The problem is, how do you do healthy conversations on a platform that’s built for yelling at each other?

Well, what do you think Elon Musk is going to do? How do you think he’s going to change Twitter?

I don’t know. The problem is, it’s got to be a better business. Let’s start with that. But Musk doesn’t like advertising. He doesn’t like being beholden to advertisers. I can’t imagine he likes being beholden to anybody, this guy! And so he’s going to work on figuring out subscriptions. I think you and I might have to pay for Twitter if we want to use it a certain way. It could be like a CNN+ situation where nobody wants to pay for it. There are all kinds of things that could happen there.