Elon Musk has revolutionized the automobile industry, he has set out to conquer space and he can, in short, revolutionize the markets. But by taking control of Twitter, the eccentric businessman has gained unprecedented influence.
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“He no longer just shares his opinion about a communication tool, he owns it and now he can set the rules for its use,” Jeffrey Winters, an elite specialist at Northwestern University, told AFP. .
By using his fortune to get his hands on such an important platform, he “involved himself in political debates around the world,” he says.
The question now is what he will do with it, starting with whether or not former US President Donald Trump will return to the social network.
Without, a priori, being accountable to anyone, “it will shape the constellation of voices that can be expressed on Twitter,” remarks Jeffrey Winters.
Elon Musk represents in his eyes the typical oligarch, a person to whom wealth gives social and political power that no ordinary citizen can claim.
In the business world, Elon Musk’s reputation as an innovator is established.
“He goes in directions that no one else goes and creates completely new products that turn out to be very effective and useful,” says Nicholas Colas of the research firm DataTrek.
He did not invent the electric car, but with Tesla he “showed that it was possible to produce it on a large scale”. With SpaceX, he developed satellites that offered the internet and reusable rockets, “technologies that had been promised to us for a long time, but never came.”
As such, he can be compared to prolific inventor Thomas Edison or legendary Apple boss Steve Jobs, says Nicholas Colas.
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Elon Musk has shown in passing that he knows how to make money: Tesla is by far the most expensive car company on the stock market and SpaceX is worth more than $125 billion.
So when the richest man in the world gives his opinion on a company or cryptocurrencies, like an oracle, his fans listen.
When he changed his Twitter mini-description to the simple phrase “#bitcoin” in early 2021, the virtual currency’s price temporarily spiked by around 20%.
He could have stuck to his role as a successful business leader and kept a low profile.
This is what most rich people do, who fear hostile reactions to their wealth, notes Jeffrey Winters.
To discreetly protect their assets, they employ lawyers and lobbyists, sometimes financing political campaigns.
But Elon Musk “is not afraid of being rich and being very visible,” explains the professor.
“The creation of Tesla, a brand that has become legendary, has brought him attention and wealth. Then he continued to express himself on social media in a way that no other boss would do publicly,” says Mark Hass, a communications and marketing specialist at Arizona State University.
“He’s not afraid to speak his mind, regardless of the people he insults or the regulators he annoys,” he says.
When he raises a peace proposal between Kyiv and Moscow on Twitter, “he probably thinks he is giving his opinion like anyone else,” Jeffrey Winters analyzes. “But when you control the satellites that allow Ukrainians to communicate, your opinion has a huge impact.”
In Washington, Elon Musk’s influence is undoubtedly much less than that of Jamie Dimon or David Solomon, the heads of the JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs banks “who hold the keys to the financial system,” Nicholas Colas notes, however.
By buying Twitter, largely with his own money, but also with contributions from some investors who are counting on him to straighten out the accounts, he is taking a huge financial risk.
“You can’t just push a button and let anarchy set in because the big advertisers are going to walk away,” says Nicholas Colas.
Elon Musk “likes to push things to the brink,” but “has never self-destructed,” recalls Mark Hass.
With Twitter, however, he now has the power to influence public events and “we don’t know where his red line is,” he adds.
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