The 2024 election, though, will be a different story. By then, if the deal is consummated, Mr. Musk will have been able to more fully mold Twitter in his own image. The platform could look radically different by then — more right-wing trolls, fewer guardrails against misinformation and extremism — or it could be largely the same. But Mr. Musk will be firmly in charge, and if Twitter still plays anywhere near the role in American political and media culture that it does today, he will emerge as a central, polarizing figure in the 2024 election cycle.
Republicans are, for obvious reasons, excited about Mr. Musk’s taking over. But the ultimate political consequences of his ownership are harder to predict. It’s theoretically possible — though, I concede, probably unlikely — that Mr. Musk’s owning Twitter could be good for Democrats in 2022 and 2024, if it allows more Republican politicians to stake out extreme positions on Twitter that end up backfiring on them at the ballot box.
But whatever moves Mr. Musk makes before 2024, it’s a good bet that they will be closely scrutinized for signs that he is putting his thumb on the scale.
Twitter will kill unpopular features, go after bots and introduce new subscription products.
Some of the most revealing exchanges in Mr. Musk’s trove of text messages were about his thoughts on Twitter’s products.
In particular, Mr. Musk was dismissive of Twitter Blue, the company’s subscription-based product that gives users access to premium features like ad-free articles and an undo button for tweets. Perhaps surprisingly, given his love of cryptocurrency, Mr. Musk also appeared skeptical of proposals to rebuild Twitter on a decentralized blockchain, saying that “blockchain Twitter won’t work.”
Based on his statements, and pitches he made to investors this summer while trying to pull a deal together, I’d expect Mr. Musk to make several changes to Twitter’s products early on. First, he will move to shut down many of Twitter’s noncore features — including some of those in Twitter Blue, but also any other features that don’t generate much revenue for the company. He will try to rid the site of spam bots, a problem that he has long singled out as one of the worst parts of Twitter. (And which formed the basis of his spurious attempt to get out of the Twitter deal, back before he decided to buy it again.)
Mr. Musk will also try to shift Twitter away from advertising revenue and toward other moneymaking opportunities — including payments features, data-licensing agreements and a mysterious new subscription product, which he has called only X, and which he has claimed will have 104 million paying users by 2028.