EDITORIAL: Twitter How to burn $44 billion

Nov. 3—Twitter is now a private company, which means Elon Musk — a one-man board of directors — gets to hide the company's financial data.

But Twitter's service is vividly public, which means the world's richest man can't fully shield himself from embarrassment as he lights his $44 billion impulse buy on fire.

Twitter, as a financial concern, was never worth $44 billion. In 2021, Twitter had $5 billion in revenue — and more than $220 billion in net losses. No wonder Twitter's management and board were so determined to force Musk to cash them out.

Musk clearly did not do his homework before making his bid. It also didn't take a week for him to demonstrate that he lacks a coherent plan for Twitter now that he has it.

He has assured advertisers that he won't allow Twitter to become a "hellscape" — but has seen use of the n-word rise some 500 percent since his takeover, and used the platform himself to amplify a vile conspiracy theory about the hammer attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And Musk's ambitions to monetize the service's "blue checkmark" — a badge confirming that an account is verified to be that of a person of prominence and/or expertise — suggests that he does not understand that such users are more useful to Twitter than Twitter is to them.

Twitter has never been as popular as Facebook or Instagram. But it has had an outsized influence specifically because it attracted elite users — journalists, commercially successful artists, public officials. Musk seems intent on alienating them.

The pre-Musk Twitter certainly had problems with bot accounts and abusive users. Musk's first few days as self-proclaimed "Chief Twit" give us little reason to believe he has solutions, and plenty of reason to suspect that he will take Twitter into the abyss of irrelevance aside Myspace.

But the world survived before Twitter existed, and the world will survive if Twitter fades away. And if the loss of Twitter leaves a hole that must be filled, somebody else will devise a replacement service. Whether it will make financial sense is another matter.