Elon Musk
Illustration: Protocol

Twitter's post-Musk IPO

Source Code

Good morning! Elon Musk is taking Twitter private to take it public, which surely bodes well for a company that isn't great at making money. Over on Facebook, pages spreading climate lies about “energy independence” are thriving. Everything’s fine! I’m Owen Thomas, and I almost wrote this edition of Source Code as a poem.

First comes CEO, then comes IPO

Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover started with him declaring that he wanted to save it from Wall Street to preserve the internet’s free speech, or at least his right to be extremely annoying, which amounts to the same thing in his mind. But he’s been telling bankers he actually plans to take Twitter public again in as little as three years, and he’s now lined up $7 billion in financing from other investors who probably don’t share his interest in Twitter as a place to post dogecoin memes.

Is Musk really saving Twitter from Wall Street? Actually he seems to be making it increasingly vulnerable: The new Twitter will be laden with debt.

  • The fresh funding Musk obtained reduces the amount he’ll have to borrow against his Tesla shares. But the deal still requires Twitter itself to borrow money.
  • Twitter doesn’t generate a lot of cash even now. The point of taking a company private is to shield it from Wall Street’s scrutiny. But if Musk is really planning to take Twitter public again so quickly, there will be pretty much immediate pressure to pretty up the company’s financials for investors.
  • And there’s the matter of Musk’s new buddies. Maybe Larry Ellison is happy to just have another boardroom where he and Musk can crack jokes, but last we checked, Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Baron Capital and others were in the business of making money for their limited partners. They are, in fact, obligated to seek returns.

And another new question: Who will lead Twitter? It’s looking like Musk, or a close ally. If his record at Tesla and SpaceX is any indication, that will mean a very hands-on boss who dives deep into operations.

  • Does that include joining sales calls? Because we would love to be a fly on the wall when Musk goes to pitch Ford, which Twitter touts as a client.
  • Musk has proposed charging commercial and government accounts a small fee, which sounds like the biggest possible favor he could do for Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Another possibility that’s been floated: Musk could appoint former PayPal COO David Sacks as CEO. Sacks’ views on content moderation map closely to — and may have inspired — Musk’s.

So Musk is taking Twitter private to take it public, and buying out profit-minded investors with the help of profit-minded investors. And he’s going to deprioritize content moderation until he figures out that’s bad for business, like Twitter did a decade ago. The point of a merry-go-round isn’t to go anywhere. Just enjoy the ride!

— Owen Thomas (email | twitter | dog’s Instagram)

The new climate denial

Climate denial is all but dead, but analysis shared exclusively with Protocol shows that there’s a new form of misinformation in town — and social media fact-checkers are largely letting it slip through the cracks.

“Energy independence” is the new climate denial. If you’ve listened to Fox News or looked at the Daily Wire’s Facebook page, you’ve come across the idea that the U.S. is woefully dependent on foreign oil and gas. Let me be blunt: This is not true. The U.S. is a net exporter of liquid natural gas and oil (though the latter may shift this year). Yet it hasn’t stopped misinformation from spreading on Facebook.

  • New analysis from Media Matters shows that of the top 100 posts spouting climate and energy misinformation between September 2021 and April 2022, just two had fact-checking labels. All told, these posts saw 5.2 million interactions, according to CrowdTangle data.
  • The gas price spike has been a central focus of misinforming posts about energy independence, accounting for 41 of the top 100.
  • The posts with misinformation came from mainstream sources like Fox News and Mike Rowe, as well as more far out pages like evangelist Franklin Graham. The latter was tagged with a label, but raked in 132,000 interactions and was the fifth-most popular post in the analysis.

Failure to tag energy misinformation is a major moderation miss. And it’s putting the climate at risk to boot.

  • “This research and content illustrate that the policies that have been in place to address climate misinformation are inadequate,” Allison Fisher, Media Matters’ director of the climate and energy program, told Protocol. “They’re just not working, either because they’re not being enforced, or they’re just inadequate to begin with.”
  • The International Energy Agency has said all new fossil fuel exploration needs to end this year to have a shot at keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • True energy independence would involve going all in on renewables and battery storage, throwing a heat pump in every basement and retrofitting millions of homes to be more energy efficient.

Clearly social media platforms still have a lot of work to do when it comes to moderating misinformation about the role dead dinosaurs play in climate change.

— Brian Kahn (email | twitter)

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People are talking

Union organizer Chris Smalls doesn’t think Amazon should get government contracts:

  • “We cannot allow Amazon or any other employer to receive taxpayer money if they engage in illegal union-busting behavior and deny workers’ rights.”

DocuSign's Iesha Berry said chief diversity officers can't hold the sole responsibility of changing company culture:

  • "The CDO is meant to be the culture catalyst that helps to accelerate and create that mirror for the organization."

Making moves

On Desk laid off a quarter of its staff, TechCrunch reported. Operations and investing employees were mostly affected.

Brian Murphy is Sigma's new chief revenue officer. Murphy previously worked at Okta as a sales SVP.

Jessica Martinez is Blizzard's first VP, head of culture. Martinez comes from Disney and is one of a few hires Blizzard planned to make to improve company culture.

Monica Khan and Derek Reynolds joined Spotter as head of creator community and VP of legal and business affairs, respectively. Khan’s from Meta, and Reynolds is from YouTube.

Michael Terrell will lead a new climate team at Google focused on reaching net zero emissions by 2030. Terrell’s new title is senior director for climate.

Linda Crowe is TigerGraph’s new VP of marketing. She most recently held the same role at Brightcove.

In other news

Meta deliberately took down pages for Australian hospitals and other services last year as a way to push back on a new social media law in the country, a whistleblower is alleging.

Fortnite is back on iOS through Microsoft's cloud gaming service. It's a big move for Epic, which has been fighting with Apple and Google over their app stores for a while now.

Reversing Roe v. Wade would affect nearly every tech company. Protocol created a map of the companies that are headquartered in states most impacted by a Supreme Court ruling.

Peloton is looking for a minority investor that could take a stake of between 15% and 20%, sources told The Wall Street Journal. It’s yet another sign the company is trying to steady itself.

People are more scared of the metaverse than they are excited, according to a recent survey. But most people don’t have any thoughts at all about it.

Mobile gaming will bring in a lot of money this year. The industry is expected to make over $100 billion in revenue, and it’s set to overtake China in gaming revenues.

The Vatican and the metaverse

We noted in yesterday’s edition of Source Code that the Vatican was getting into NFTs. The Pope was apparently interested in the metaverse, too, but those plans are up in the air.

The Vatican apparently offered Vice an interview about its Web3 foray, then never followed through, so Vice wrote about what led to the rescinded offer. The story involves a group called Humanity 2.0 and a former Brooklyn Nets owner, and it’s worth reading all the way through. And no, we still don’t know what the Vatican wants to do in the metaverse.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.

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