WASHINGTON: Twitter is aflutter with revolt and rebellion over its takeover by Tesla’s Elon Musk, the world richest individual.
So great is the ferment in the social media company that it has blocked its developers from making changes to the app amid fears of sabotage by angry staffers.
Furious employees who believe Musk’s Twitter grab is dangerous are venting openly, while civil liberties groups are warning that it would put too much power in the hands of one individual even through he is a free-speech absolutist.
Alarms about a Musk takeover of Twitter and what could mean for influential social media platform has erupted in different quarters in different forms. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whom Musk overtook to become the world’s wealthiest man, suggested in a tweet that Twitter could become vulnerable to pressure from Beijing, ostensibly because Tesla has big stakes in China.
Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square? https://t.co/jTiEnabP6T— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) 1650929384000
“Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” he asked, before reeling back suspicion in a follow-up tweet. “My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter,” he added.
Twitter’s Indian-American CEO Parag Agrawal, whose days as the head honcho are numbered by most accounts, tried to temper the unrest in the company, reportedly telling a staff meeting on Monday hours after Musk’s buyout was sealed that “It’s important to acknowledge that all of you have many different feelings about what is happening.”
“Some of you are concerned, some are you are excited, and some of you are waiting to see how this goes. I know this affects all of you personally. It is an emotional day, and I just want to acknowledge it,” Agrawal reportedly told staffers, while informing them that their jobs were safe for the next six months as the company transitions to Musk’s ownership.
Agrawal himself is expected to get an estimated $42 million if he is terminated within 12 months of a change in control at the social media company, according to research firm Equilar. Ties between Agrawal and Musk are sketchy, with the CEO initially welcoming Musk to the Twitter board to avert a hostile take over bid, but the Tesla co-founder then disdaining the offer and pushing ahead with his acquisition.
There is also the Washington angle in the transaction that will take several weeks to unfold. Liberal lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren, who are leery of Big Tech and who have long wanted to reign it in, believe the Musk takeover is dangerous for democracy. “Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold Big Tech accountable,” Warren tweeted.
This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyon… https://t.co/Tc0k2TE7Ai— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) 1650921767000
There is also apprehension that Musk’s insistence on free speech and open platform will pave way for the return of Donald Trump, who was banned indefinitely from Twitter by the outgoing dispensation. Although Trump has said he does not intend to return, some of his surrogates are always making a triumphant return to the platform amid fears that the Musk approach will herald a return of hate mongering and conspiracy theories.