For Musk, there’s no free lunch on Twitter; Trump’s welcome

Musk has made the right noises about free speech, increasing users, while mopping up revenue and elusive profits

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Published: Wed 11 May 2022, 10:45 PM

A votary of free speech or a marketing genius? The Tesla chief and Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk could be both if his plans indeed work out, which isn’t a bad thing as he draws up plans to revitalise the platform and make it consistently profitable.

The world’s richest man who purchased Twitter for $44 billion believes silencing former US president Donald Trump on the platform for his alleged incitement of violence at the Capitol which left five people dead and several injured was a flawed and partisan decision.

This could mean a comeback of sorts for the former US president who has said that he’s not interested to return as he’s busy with his own platform Truth Social. The former president’s app, however, has limited appeal and is making waves only among his faithful followers who are hooked to combative Trumpism.

But whether Trump returns to Twitter or not, Musk has made the right noises about free speech, increasing users, while mopping up revenue and elusive profits that could transform Twitter into more than just a talk shop that the elites and the media take seriously while engaging in endless debates.

Last year, the Senate cleared Trump of inciting protestors to storm the Capitol. Liberals called it an insurrection, but the case never made it to a court of law.

Legally, the former president is clean, and Musk’s plans to overturn the ban could give him just the traction he needs on Twitter to galvanize his online troops if he decides to run for office in 2024. Before it was suspended last January, @realdonaldtrump had 88.7 million followers. And if Trump returns with his followers, Musk’s marketing gamble would have paid off.

For 16 years of its existence, Twitter has been more talk than cash. The only year it made money was in 2018, and Musk wants to change all that with a push for profits. “Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users,” he tweeted last week.

It ties in well with his plans to make the platform robust commercially, (and consistently) while retaining its appeal among users who value free speech and its various interpretations.

“I would reverse the permanent ban (on Trump) but I don’t own Twitter yet so this is not a thing that will definitely happen,” Musk said on Tuesday. The Tesla chief has a way of making things happen despite the naysayers. He hit the sweet spot with PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, and he could do it with Twitter if he ignores his critics. For Musk, there’s no free lunch on the platform. Free speech is dessert.

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