Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter. / REUTERS

Tweet yourself to something nice

It would be great if leaders and politicians decided to dump Twitter for good

Peter Edgerton
PETER EDGERTON

The richest man in the world, Elon Musk has just bought Twitter for 44 billion dollars. That sentence contains three things I don't understand: 44 billion dollars, Twitter and, er, Elon Musk.

Shortly after the momentous purchase, he took to his new platform to unleash a message which was quite astonishing in its unbridled hubris. It went thus: 'Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.' Er, ok, Elon. And there was I thinking it was just somewhere for B-list celebrities to snipe at one another. The things you learn.

The latest chapter in the story involves Mr Musk's proposal of an eight dollar monthly fee for a blue tick (it's actually a white tick on a blue background) signifying a verified account which will offer customers priority replies and searches - whatever that means - and half as many advertisements as everyone else. So far, so bewildering.

I've got to be honest, I always feel a slight frisson of despair whenever I hear a newsreader say 'Today, the president of the United States tweeted..' or 'The Spanish Prime Minister took to Twitter this morning in order to..' Surely world leaders shouldn't be allowed anywhere near anything that involves emojis. It just makes our already infantilised society look even more childish. 'New budget policy to be announced today OMG! Awks! Smiley Face, Embarrassed face,' tweeted somebody very important. It's just not very becoming of anyone who wants to be taken seriously to be pinging digital messages hither and yon, which may go some way to explaining why, generally speaking, politicians are not taken very seriously at all these days. Wouldn't it be massively impressive if someone became a nation's leader and stated categorically in their inauguration speech that they wouldn't be touching Twitter with a barge pole, principally because they're not fifteen years old? They'd have my unconditional support for taking that stance alone.

Still, we should certainly wish Elon Musk well, especially in his stated objective of preventing his new acquisition from becoming a 'free-for-all hellscape.' I think we can all agree that that's not a particularly desirable panorama and I've no doubt he's sincere in his intentions, which maybe means I understand him a bit more than I thought I did. Still haven't got a clue what 44 billion dollars is, though.