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Freedom of SpeechGlobal issues

Opinion: Elon Musk's Twitter poll is ridiculous

Martin Muno
Martin Muno
December 19, 2022

Since the egomaniacal billionaire took over Twitter, the platform has fallen into complete disarray. Now, Elon Musk has put himself up for a vote. But Martin Muno believes it's all just for show.

A stock footage photo of Elon Musk as seen through Twitter's bird logo
The results of Musk's most recent Twitter poll are damning, but he's likely to stick around even if users don't want himImage: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/REUTERS

Around 58% of all 17.5 million people voting ticked "yes" when Elon Musk tweeted a poll asking whether he should step down as the head of Twitter. What does this tell us?

The short answer is: nothing, really.

The long answer is: Elon Musk seems to be growing bored with the new $44-billion (€41 billion) toy that's caused him nothing but trouble since he bought it. But it seems out of place to feel sorry for the world's now only second-richest man — he's brought this misery upon himself by acting out like a spoiled 4-year-old.

Twitter is a global communication platform

Twitter is not some luxury item you can buy for the right price. It's one of the most relevant communication platforms in the world — if not, the most relevant. Worldwide, politicians, top managers, governments, NGOs, journalists, scientists, superstars and ordinary people use the free service to share information, stay on top of what's relevant and exchange ideas.

Even though the social network has struggled with hate speech over the years, the system works more or less because users who violate community guidelines are punished. Donald Trump might be the most prominent example: The former US president was banned from the platform after using it to inspire his followers to storm the US Capitol on January 6.

Chaos and QAnon reigns

Mayhem ensued as soon as Musk took over Twitter. First, he fired half of the company's employees, then he (mostly unsuccessfully) tried to convince them to come back. Anyone who dared criticize the new "Chief Twit" was let go.

Musk even went so far as to suggest that Twitter's ex-security chief had sympathies for pedophilia, which unleashed a barrage of death threats against the former employee. Of course, there was no factual evidence for this QAnon-esque accusation. But it also wasn't the first time Musk has show an obsession with right-wing conspiracy theories.

He showed what he truly thought freedom of expression meant when he reinstated hundreds of banned right-wing extremist accounts within days of taking over the company, while banning journalists who dared post his — already public — flight movements.

Cash burned

As a result of this entrepreneurial rampage, hundreds of advertising partners have jumped ship. Musk's tarnished image even dragged down the stock price of electric car company Tesla, of which Musk is also CEO. Since the beginning of the year, Tesla's share price has fallen by half and Musk's private wealth has decreased by about $100 billion (€94 billion).

The most likely future scenario is that Musk names a loyal vasal to govern Twitter so he can return to his entrepreneurial duties at Tesla and SpaceX. Whoever thinks Musk will ever see reason and turn Twitter back into the platform it used to be probably also believes in Santa Claus.

This article was originally published in German.

Martin Muno
Martin Muno Digital immigrant, interested in questions of populism and political power