Free Speech Absolutist Elon Musk May Chafe At Laws Of Land, Say Experts

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Tesla Inc founder Elon Musk’s $44-billion takeover offer for microblogging platform Twitter may lead to more run-ins with the Indian government and others, due to his self-proclaimed ‘absolutist’ stance in support of free speech, experts said.

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A shakeup is “desperately required” at Twitter and key markets such as India and China haven’t been utilised very much, said Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and chief executive of Greyhound Research. “For instance, there is no INR-specific advertising policy. That is so surprising considering they have so many active users in India. The focus on the country and monetisation is rather poor,” he said.

There is “no other choice” but to go private and a certain “ruthlessness” is required, he added. “From a stakeholder perspective, it is a great offer. People have concerns about Musk’s erratic behaviour, but his image on Twitter is very different from how he does business,” Gogia added.

Greyhound’s Gogia added that Musk and his team would have to keep in mind that their idea of free speech was not an equitable concept in today’s day and age. “There has to be a more nuanced approach on how freedom of speech is handled in light of the laws of the land,” he said. “And I don’t think the company has done justice to that so far.”

He said Twitter’s relationship with the India government “is one of the weakest links,” adding that “a lot of brands also haven’t warmed up to the platform because they haven’t attuned the product to local demands.”

Economic Times

Additional analyst comments:

1/ Billionaires using public platforms to change the narrative or further their ideas is always a risk, and we have heard similar concerns with Jeff Bezos owning The Washington Post. But given how Elon Musk has used Twitter to push the envelope on free speech, it is doubtful he will use Twitter for any ulterior motives. However, one can never rule out any possibility, especially when a company goes private and all decision making happens behind closed doors. 

2/ It might be noteworthy that such strategic changes can only be institutionalised when the company is taken private and away from public scrutiny. And that’s what Elon Musk is suggesting. The fact is until the team has the QoQ pressure, it will never be able to make bold and aggressive changes that need out of the box moves. It might help to know that even companies like Dell had to go private to change their product lines, teams, sales practices, etc. Then, of course, it bounced back into public markets and has been doing rather well since.

3/ Going private does mean a ton of ruthlessness, and that, combined with Elon Musk’s unusual management style, has many concerned, if not worried. But this has proven to be effective in the past. And maybe it is what is needed to up the ante for Twitter.

4/ Twitter needs a bit of a shakeup. The product has not moved by leaps and bounds as it should have, and key markets like India and China haven’t been utilised very much. For instance, there is no INR specific advertising policy. That is so surprising, considering they have so many active users from India. The focus on the country and monetisation is relatively poor. 

5/ What Elon Musk does very well is gather public opinion to shape product strategy. Plus, from a stakeholder perspective, it is a great offer. 

6/ People have concerns about Musk’s erratic behaviour, but his image on Twitter is very different from how he does business. Too much is being said about the fate of existing CEO Parag Agarwal. Sundar Pichai is an excellent example of thriving in Google despite having demanding founders. Founders can be challenging and erratic, but people can survive and thrive under them. 

7/ There is also talk that the focus would primarily be on NFT and crypto now, but crypto still doesn’t define revenues. 

8/ Musk is talking about the blue tick and institutionalising it at a dollar rate per month. That will unlock a lot of value. In terms of other measures that the company can use to open possibilities – it can be a great lead management sales engine, a great marketing engine for branding, and an excellent customer service engine.

9/ But Elon Musk and the new team will have to keep in mind that their idea of free speech is not an equitable concept in today’s day and age. What they think of free speech in the US could be very different in India. There are cultural and regional nuances, and those need to be respected. There has to be a more nuanced approach to how freedom of speech is handled in light of the laws of the land. And I don’t think the company has done justice to that. Twitter’s relationship with the government in India is one of the weakest links. 

10/ Lastly, many brands haven’t warmed up to the platform because they haven’t acclimatised the product to local demands.


<strong>Analyst: Sanchit Vir Gogia</strong>
Analyst: Sanchit Vir Gogia

Sanchit is the Chief Analyst, Founder & CEO of Greyhound Research, a Global, Award-Winning, Digital & Technology Research & Advisory firm.

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