Want to Know How Well Twitter Is Doing? Don’t Rely on Elon Musk.

The CEO has a reputation for distorting the truth and being his own hype man

Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk in January, 2023
Don't believe everything you read on Elon Musk's Twitter feed.
Justin Sullivan/Getty

It’s difficult to understand how Twitter is faring as a company in real time. As a private entity, we can’t follow the trajectory of their stock price, and the social media company isn’t exactly forthcoming about its current troubles, of which there are many. CEO Elon Musk has axed staff as well as the coveted blue check marks, and pushed a number of controversial changes. Under his reign, the general consensus has been that Twitter is worse off, both financially and in its user experience. 

Is this really the case, though? Musk fanboys with a few dozen followers who are now paying $8 per month for a blue check mark — something Bill Gates (with 62.5 million followers) and Justin Bieber (113 million) both no longer have — will certainly say Twitter is better off now, but their opinion isn’t of much consequence. 

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece today that also argues Elon Musk is “transforming Twitter, not killing it.” The writer not only claims that the platform is becoming “better, bigger, safer and, above all, freer” under the Tesla CEO’s direction, but says “[t]he eccentric billionaire is creating one of the most powerful media platforms the world has ever seen.” 

Contrarian alert! But as this was signed off by The Wall Street Journal Opinion team, there must be some legitimate facts behind this claim, right? Not quite.

The argument for Twitter’s ascendancy comes from, for the most part, quotes from Elon Musk himself. He implies that the company is releasing features faster than ever, quoting Musk; he implies that hate speech is ebbing on the platform, quoting Musk; and he implies that advertisers are rushing back — you guessed it — quoting Musk.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal’s actual reporters, who take into account facts instead of rose-colored opinions of the company’s CEO, reported this week on the dire state of the platform’s advertising revenue in the Musk era.

“Of Twitter’s former top 100 advertisers from before Mr. Musk bought the company, 37 appeared to spend nothing on Twitter advertising during the first quarter of this year, according to market-intelligence firm Sensor Tower,” the Journal reported. “Of that former top 100, a further 24 brands appeared to have reduced their average monthly Twitter ad spending by 80% or more compared with the period before the acquisition, according to Sensor Tower.”

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Additionally, Musk doesn’t exactly have a great track record of truth-telling. While he was ultimately cleared of liability in a class-action lawsuit related to a 2018 claim on Twitter that he had secured funding to take Tesla private, what you may not have heard from the outcome of that lawsuit is that “the federal judge overseeing the case…ruled that the tweets were untrue and Musk was reckless for posting them,” as TechCrunch noted at the time. Even Musk himself has openly admitted you shouldn’t believe everything he posts on Twitter.

Whether Twitter will thrive or die under Musk is an open question, one that likely won’t be answered for a long time. But if you want to understand where the company is headed, it’s clear that Musk’s tweets, interviews and boasts are not the place to get a realistic picture. 

As the Journal reported in March, Twitter is valued at less than half of the price Musk originally paid for the company. He’s got 24 billion reasons to obfuscate the truth about his new money pit.

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