In view of the list of his successes, nobody can seriously dispute that Elon Musk has a brilliant streak as an entrepreneur: With PayPal he reinvented online payment, Tesla set the standards for electric cars ten years before the competition from Europe, and with SpaceX Musk proves that privately developed rockets fly into space faster and cheaper than NASA ever could.
But in order to run all his companies at the same time, Musk has developed an abrupt, sometimes chaotic management style, characterized by quick, drastic decisions and an obsession with detail, by hierarchical management structures and extreme working hours.
Musk is used to being listened to by everyone in his universe, he doesn't accept contradiction, let alone lengthy debates. Such a leadership style is required to lead multiple start-ups to success in parallel - and at the same time completely unsuitable for leading a complex social network like Twitter.
With the purchase of Twitter, the genius fell into the trap. Because in order to understand the mechanisms in a social network, one must above all be empathetic.
Any change to the mechanics of a platform needs careful consideration. Twitter competitor Meta tests even the smallest modification of Facebook or Instagram for weeks on small user groups.
Musk's abrupt management style doesn't work here. A social network is not a start-up in which everyone is working towards the same goal, on the contrary: it is a reflection of our society and, as in every society, there are those who want to participate - and those who like to disturb, the trolls. Musk should have known that before getting involved, as he was once perhaps the most influential Twitter troll himself.
But Musk is currently proving that he just didn't understand the mechanisms of his platform: He, who bought Twitter with the stipulation that freedom of expression should be above everything else, is now setting up special rules for himself - and thus reducing everything he supports to absurdity so far stood.
His most recent mistake: he blocked the Twitter account "Elonmusksjet", which automatically documented the flights of Musk's private jet from publicly available data on aircraft movements.
He should have endured so much transparency, "free speech" and so on. Instead, Musk introduced a new usage rule to turn off the account he didn't like.
And he proved that he didn't understand one of the fundamental effects of a social network: Only when information is suppressed does it gain in importance and suddenly become interesting - the so-called "Streisand effect" takes effect:
Suddenly the topic “Elonmusksjet” was trending on Twitter. Well-known US journalists publicly discussed the contradiction between Musk's right to freedom of expression and the block decision in a virtual "Twitter Space" on Thursday.
When Musk himself broke into the discussion round unasked, he got stuck in his attempt to justify himself, didn't answer questions, left the round again - and a few seconds later switched off the "Spaces" function completely to discuss the debate per Ordre de Mufti, which he didn't like to end.
He also quickly blocked the Twitter user accounts of various US journalists who reported critically about his behavior. The decision would have been worthy of a dictator, but not of a Twitter CEO who carries freedom as a mantra on the flags.
With the recent bans, Musk is devaluing Twitter as a platform for the democratic exchange of opinions, destroying his investment and endangering the preservation of the “common digital town hall square” – the goal Musk started with just a few weeks ago.
If the boss can dictate what topics aren't acceptable, then Twitter is dead. The recent bans promptly sparked a mass exodus of users to rival network Mastodon.
Musk's reaction is telling, reminiscent of that of a defiant rich kid: if the other kids don't want to play with him by his rules, then they can't play anywhere else either. Recently, users can no longer post Mastodon links on Twitter.
Elon Musk would be wise to recognize that his involvement with Twitter is misguided, that his methods are not working here.
He should focus on what he can - and leave the running of Twitter to an experienced social media manager. This would ensure Musk's preservation of the platform and his fortune. Otherwise there is a risk of exodus of users, advertisers and staff, and the Twitter experiment will fail.
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