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After spending $44 billion on Twitter, Elon Musk decided this week to ask Twitter's users whether he should keep running it, said Sarah Needleman in the Wall Street Journal — and with 17 million responses the answer was "no." Musk went largely quiet for 38 hours, and cast "doubt on the results," in which 58 percent of users said he should quit as CEO. But he finally said he would go, without setting a firm timeline, and warning that "finding someone to take the job would be hard." He might still be coming around on the details, but I think he got the verdict he secretly wanted, said Parmy Olson in Bloomberg. Days before the poll, he suspended an account that used flight data to track his private jet, claiming it was harassment. He banished several journalists who wrote about the suspension, to wide condemnation. Then he added a new category of bans: accounts promoting rival social media companies like Facebook and Mastodon. Musk believed he was bringing "free speech to Twitter, but his warped understanding of the concept along with his thin skin and volatile management style set him up for a rapid descent."
It makes zero difference if Musk steps down as CEO, said Jon Schwarz in The Intercept. He still owns Twitter; he's still in charge. And whoever replaces him "will face exactly the same problems" — that Twitter is a bad business made worse by Musk's actions. He has "terrified its advertisers," and with his subscription service practically dead on arrival "there are no other plausible sources of income." Musk is down to searching for new investors willing to buy in at the $54.20 per share he paid for Twitter, said Liz Hoffman and Reed Albergotti in Semafor. That's "a tough sell for an asset whose value is rapidly collapsing." But Musk, who recently offloaded another $3.6 billion worth of Tesla shares, is increasingly looking financially strapped.
Tesla's shares are down more than 60 percent this year, said Alan Ohnsman in Forbes, with roughly half that fall happening after Musk took over Twitter. "As the carmaker's sole voice and face," he's turning off potential customers with his partisan political tweets and childish antics. Since late October, Tesla's overall favorability has dropped 6.2 points among U.S. adults, according to a Morning Consult study. It has fallen 20 points among Democrats, the main buyers for EVs. The timing couldn't be worse, as Tesla is "starting to lose market share to new competitors" in the EV space, including Ford and General Motors.
After Musk bought Twitter, said Matt Levine in Bloomberg, "he brought back accounts whose politics aligned with his, banned journalists who criticized him, and generally tailored the Twitter experience to what he thought he wanted." Yet it doesn't seem like he's having much fun. As it turns out, unlike Tesla or SpaceX, "very little of the Twitter experience is about the software." The problem is that "if you run a message board, you can tweak the buttons, and you can ban users, but you can't make the users who are left love you."
This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.