Will Elon Musk’s breakup with Twitter have any impact on India or are we “Begane merger mei Abdulla deewana”?
Industry experts feel that Musk’s experience in product development would have been beneficial to Twitter and would have given it a fair chance against the other social media giants in the country
What began as a shocking (and fairly weird) courtship in March end this year has finally turned into an ugly breakup (almost). Last week, Elon Musk backed out of his deal with microblogging site Twitter which he had offered to buy for USD 44 billion in April this year.
The Tesla CEO has cited two reasons for backing out to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. He has alleged that Twitter did not share with him data about the number of spam bots on the platform despite repeated requests. The Indian Express quoted Musk’s legal team as saying, “Sometimes Twitter has ignored Mr. Musk’s requests, sometimes it has rejected them for reasons that appear to be unjustified, and sometimes it has claimed to comply while giving Mr. Musk incomplete or unusable information.”
However, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal had reiterated multiple times that less than 5% of Twitter accounts were bots. Secondly, after the deal had already been announced, Twitter froze its hiring, fired certain senior employees, and breached parts of the deal that said Twitter could not make organisational changes, alleged Musk.
Over the course of the last three months, both Twitter and Tesla saw their stock values taking a dip. The closing stock value of Twitter on July 12 was USD 34.06, as opposed to the USD 51.70 on April 25 when Twitter and Musk entered the acquisition deal. Tesla’s stock value closed at USD 699.21 on July 12 (which was a 0.54% dip from the previous day). The Indian Express article added that since April 25, Tesla’s stock value has depreciated by over 24%.
Media reports have quoted industry experts as saying that the deal being left incomplete was inevitable since Musk jumped into it without detailing out the finances. It’s still unclear whether Musk actually had enough money in hand to go through with the deal. A report in the LiveMint read, “The agreement came together at breakneck speed in part because Musk waived the chance to look at Twitter’s finances beyond what was publicly available.”
Now, the microblogging site is taking Twitter to court in Delaware. The chances of Twitter receiving compensation (USD 1 billion) from Musk are higher than the court forcing Musk to go through with the deal.
What impact will this have on India?
Twitter and the Indian government have been in a brawl since last year when the company was forced to hire a grievance officer and file a transparency report under the IT Rules 2021, or lose its status as an intermediary in the country.
Twitter took a step further in this quarrel when it recently took the Indian government to the Karnataka High Court over its constant demands to remove content from the microblogging site that criticises the Centre or has separatist statements.
The Hindu BusinessLine quoted a senior industry expert as saying, “Musk’s stance on free speech might have created further conflict with the Centre’s content moderation policies. One of the key motivations for Elon Musk to acquire Twitter was to relax the microblogging site’s content moderation rules and ensure absolute standards of free speech. This would have not boded well for the company’s India operations.”
However, this same industry expert also feels that Musk’s experience in product development would have been beneficial to the platform and would have given it a fair chance against the other social media giants in the country.
Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst, Founder, and CEO of Greyhound Research, told Hindu BusinessLine, “Musk’s anti-establishment stance would have been to the detriment of Twitter’s India operations. Musk’s decisive stance on free speech would not have been appreciated by marketeers or Twitter India’s brand in this case.”
At the same time, it's important to note that the 'free speech' promises made by Musk are untested as of now (even our Constitution imposes reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech).
Who knows, maybe the Indian government would have even refused to let an “edit” button be added to the platform here! Or worse, under the garb of Musk-hailed 'free speech', propaganda could have been leashed unmoderated on the platform.
And while Twitter seems to have nose-dived into legal matters, and Musk into making memes, Indian industrialists are busy making jokes about the matter. Anand Mahindra tweeted, “If Elon were to embark on an Indian railway, the conductor would call him a "TT" Ticketless Traveler," Mahindra Group Chairman remarked, "However, TT may now become a moniker for every headline-grabbing attempt that fails: A Twitter Tease.”