Musk's takeover: quo vadis, Twitter?

As the new owner of microblogging service Twitter, Tesla boss Elon Musk has announced far-reaching changes: a large part of the platform's workforce has been laid off, although now some employees are being asked to return. A fee will be charged for certain services, such as the verification of user identities, and blocked accounts like Donald Trump's are to be unblocked. Europe's press discusses where Twitter is heading.

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Der Standard (AT) /

The company is sinking into chaos

The Tesla boss is on course to destroy the messaging service, writes Der Standard:

“As self-confident as Elon Musk may appear to be, he is wandering haphazardly through the social media maze. This is not only damaging his reputation as a visionary and entrepreneur, but also Twitter. Within a very short time, the VW Group as well as General Motors have paused their ad placements. Due to the rapid increase in hate speech, advertising group IPG, which represents the likes of Coca-Cola and Spotify, recommended that its customers wait to see what happens first. We can only hope that the Tesla CEO will turn the wheel in time - and not steer Twitter into the abyss.”

Blick (CH) /

Users: from product to customers

Tabloid Blick praises the plans:

“Elon Musk can easily be viewed as an arrogant lunatic. Who would buy a social media portal for 44 billion dollars, dismiss thousands of staff and scare away advertising customers? ... But Musk can equally easily be described as a visionary who is busily carving out a new business model for himself. ... Until now, the focus on social platforms has not been on the users, but on the advertisers. The former provide data, the latter tap into it. ... From now on, the users are to be at the centre, for which they will have to pay, but in return they receive a service tailored to their requirements. The user is transformed from product to customer. Does that have to be such a bad thing?”

Le Monde (FR) /

Networks must be democratically developed

Society must take control of how social media develop, computer scientist Serge Abiteboul and the secretary general of the French National Digital Council, Jean Cattan, demand in Le Monde:

“No, we will not banish social networks from the face of the earth because certain people abuse them or because some companies have turned them into machines that serve their interests. Instead, we will set out to collectively improve them. ... If social networks affect our democracies, then they must be objects of democracy. If they affect what we are, they must be subject to our decisions. Because yes, we are the social networks!” (SI) /

The end of productive dialogue

In his blog Jinov Svet, Sašo Ornik interprets the fact that many Twitter users are leaving the network in protest as a sign of social division:

“Just as the supporters of one political camp stop reading the newspapers of the other, it may happen that in future the supporters of a political camp no longer come into contact with social networks which are used by people with different political, religious or other convictions. ... All we need now is for companies, businesses and sports teams to split themselves up in this way.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

Time to revive freedom

Attitudes on freedom of expression have radically changed, Contrepoints comments on the backlash against Musk:

“His only crime is that he is an 'absolutist' on freedom of expression, which until a few years ago was part of the common political heritage - from classic liberals to the democratic left and libertarians. Today, in a world where Julian Assange has been gagged and pre-censorship is being re-established, standing up for freedom of expression has become something exotic. It's time for freedom to be resurrected as a principle, in the West and elsewhere.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Too much freedom of opinion undermines democracy

Musk's announcements may sound good but they are dangerous, warns De Volkskrant:

“Unrestricted freedom of expression on social media promotes polarisation and disinformation, undermines democracy and leads to a huge increase in hatred and all kinds of racism. ... Social media live from advertisements so they want to attract as much attention as possible, for as long as possible and from as many people as possible. The most attention, however, is generated by statements that trigger hatred and outrage. ... [For Musk] every participant in the debate has the same right to speak. It is precisely this belief that leads to loudmouths and bullies gaining far too much power and influence on social media.”

ABC (ES) /

Hoarding data like on WeChat

Musk's model for Twitter comes from China, ABC suspects:

“One of the models Musk wants to copy is the Chinese messaging app WeChat, with which users can pay their bills, store their ID and contact services as well as write messages. The problem is that WeChat has been denounced as a spying and social control app used by the Chinese regime. Its success will be hard to replicate without the aggressive use of users' data. So the entrepreneur faces a formidable challenge, because Twitter is the preferred network of journalists and politicians, and they will follow Musk's moves very closely.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Between laissez-faire and censorship

Olivier Babeau, chairman of the think tank Institut Sapiens, shows understanding for the hopes placed in Musk. He writes in Le Figaro:

“Beyond expressions of genuine hatred, dissent itself is increasingly equated with violence and banned. ... On Twitter, decisions to block certain accounts may have appeared arbitrary and, worse, politically oriented. ... Musk's takeover could be the first act of a tangible reaction against the spread of this partisan and intolerant tendency of social networks, heralding a reorientation towards a more open handling of debates.”

Interia (PL) /

A strange enthusiasm for influencer oligarch

Interia is baffled:

“The richest man in the world takes over Twitter. We control the institutions of the state (and rightly so!), but money escapes all control. ... We reject politicians (sometimes rightly, sometimes instinctively), but we're increasingly enthusiastic about oligarchs. Especially when - like Musk - they have something of the influencer about them.”

Eco - Economia Online (PT) /

Deal would not be possible without Qatar or China

Eco points to the financial dependencies of Twitter's new owner:

“To realise the Twitter takeover, Elon Musk was forced to surround himself with investors - the best known of which is the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, which is now one of the owners of the most influential platform in the US public space. But even that won't be the biggest problem. The main issue is that Elon Musk's business network is based on dangerous dependencies on enemies of the American state, such as Russia and especially China. Musk is effectively dependent on foreign markets, especially the Chinese one, for Tesla's wellbeing.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Potential conflict with the EU

The warning by EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton that Twitter must stick to the EU's rules in the single market will pose an additional challenge for Musk, notes Sydsvenskan:

“Because while on the one hand he is promising Twitter users increased leeway and planning to let former US President Donald Trump back onto the platform, on the other Elon Musk also has to abide by the laws - not least those of the large EU market. And he needs to maintain friendly relations with his advertisers: on Friday he promised that the platform would not become a 'free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences'. The stringent reaction of the EU Commission shows that he will have to honour this promise.”