Elon Musk has revealed he may start charging commercial and public sector organisations to use Twitter when he completes his takeover of the social network. Musk is keen to boost Twitter’s profitability, but with the platform already offering limited benefits to businesses, he may find the plan will backfire.
“Ultimately the downfall of the Freemasons was giving away their stonecutting services for nothing,” said Musk in a typically cryptic tweet posted last night, before suggesting he could levy a fee at business and government users of Twitter in future:
Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 3, 2022
As reported by Tech Monitor, Twitter’s board agreed the sale of the social network to Musk last week, with the Tesla billionaire set to pay $44bn for the company. Musk has been pursuing Twitter for some time, having taken a 9% share in the business earlier this year, and he plans to take the company private once he has assumed control, leaving him free to introduce changes to the platform. But will businesses actually pay to use Twitter?
Will businesses pay to use Twitter?
Twitter is currently free for all users, but offers businesses the ability to advertise and promote their tweets to reach a wider audience. But these services have not helped the company turn a profit, and for the 2021 financial year it posted a loss of $493m, despite revenue growing sharply from $3.7bn in 2020 to $5.08bn in 2021.
Musk is looking for new income streams for the platform, having described it as a "niche" platform and stated he wants to increase its attractiveness to users. Indeed, Twitter says it currently has 330 million monthly active users, far below the 2.9 billion users accessing Facebook each month.
With this in mind, businesses may not see value in paying to access the platform when larger audiences are available to access free elsewhere.
Musk's other plans for Twitter include making the algorithm that decides which content is served to which users open-source, in a bid to eliminate bias and promote free speech. But experts have questioned the value of this, and say bigger changes will be required if Twitter is to become better at policing harmful content and eliminating bias.
"There is an implicit assumption in Musk’s statement that solving problems around bias is a matter of getting the algorithm right," Michael Rovatsos, professor of artificial intelligence and director of the Bayes Centre for data science and AI at Edinburgh University, told Tech Monitor last week. "This is simply not true. Algorithms don’t solve ethical problems, people and organisations do, and that requires putting solid risk management, governance and oversight mechanisms in place that keep users safe and safeguard key societal values, and protect fundamental rights."
Tech Monitor has approached Twitter for comment.