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Elon Musk bought $44 billion in fixed uppers, and he won’t waste any time ruining the union.
If you’re like me trying to ignore the news over the weekend, here’s a look at what Musk’s wrecking ball has been up to so far:
- Twitter executives are out, though not empty-handed: The former CEO, CFO and top lawyer is expected to leave with a combined stock dividend and golden parachute of about $200 million.
- Musk and his inner circle reportedly worked over the weekend to solidify plans to cut a quarter of the workforce.
- Musk dismissed the board on Monday (not unexpectedly, but notably).
- Twitter’s blue-check verification seal — a feature that helps users distinguish which accounts are real — could soon be upended as Musk considers whether to allow people to pay for it. (more on that later).
- As if all of that didn’t keep him busy, he also took time out to call The New York Times “fake news” and tweeted a conspiracy theory about the Paul Pelosi attack that was clearly untrue.
Yes, it’s all Musk’s textbook. But what started as a hoax (which backfired and cost Musk $44 billion) has now turned into a slow-motion digital age train wreck.
Why should you care?
Maybe you don’t use Twitter; maybe no one you know uses Twitter. Honestly, I don’t recommend you start trying it now. But the truth is, many of the politicians you voted for or against have been using it. It is used by journalists, academics and business leaders who help shape everyday discourse around the world. Musk himself has long favored using Twitter rather than his PR team to post news about his other companies, such as Tesla.
It’s only one-tenth the size of Facebook, but as my colleague Seth Fiegerman writes, Twitter has always had a huge impact on media, politics, and tech.
Now that we see how Musk plans to consolidate his power on Twitter, people are nervous.
Before Musk, Twitter wasn’t a perfect place—it was still the internet after all. But the company is trying to make it less hateful, less toxic, and less tolerant of the harassment that tends to snowball when human thugs start typing with a self-righteous enthusiasm. People peddling hate speech and conspiracy theories are often banned.
Musk made it clear that he thinks Twitter is too strict with these people. And, unsurprisingly, within hours of Musk sealing his ownership last week, a flood of racist tweets sprang up from users who now have the guts to post hate speech with impunity.
Musk said he wouldn’t make any immediate changes to the content moderation, and tried to reassure investors that the site wouldn’t be “a hellish sight” or “free.”
But the blue check verification problem makes many users hesitant.
The feature is an imperfect but useful way for Twitter users to quickly determine if the information they’re using comes from the account they claim to be. For example, a tweet from @CNN with a blue tick means it’s from a real CNN staffer. An impostor might try to create a look-alike account, but without a blue check, you’ll know it’s not us.
Now, Musk-era Twitter is considering offering that status to users willing to pay $20 a month. Those of us who are already verified may have to start paying to keep us verified, according to internal Twitter documents seen by CNN.
Of course, the pricing and details of the plans are subject to change. But either way, such a move completely changes the meaning of blue checks, becoming a status symbol for anyone paying an extra $240 a year while deterring those who can’t.
Bottom line: Online content moderation is not a new or unresearched issue. In fact, many smart people have been working on how to solve all of these tough problems for years (many of them work at Twitter, in fact).
Musk seems to think he can fix everything in one fell swoop while making Twitter more profitable. I wish him luck.
RELATED: Sen. Chris Murphy has called for an investigation into the national security implications of a Saudi Arabian entity holding a large stake in Twitter after helping Musk fund a takeover.
More grim economic data just came out of the euro zone, underscoring expectations of a recession in Europe this winter.
Among the 19 countries that use the euro, inflation rose at a record annual rate of 10.7% in October, up from 9.9% in September, according to preliminary estimates released on Monday. Energy prices rose nearly 42% year-on-year, while the cost of food, alcohol and tobacco rose more than 13%.
Bottom line: Even if the European economy is still growing – albeit modestly – consumers will be under increasing pressure and businesses will be forced to hoard cash. It’s also bad news for the US, which is less affected by war inflation in Ukraine but is also struggling to keep prices in check.
Today is Halloween, my favorite holiday, so I want to talk about horror movies. You know, the fictional scary places we go to escape the non-fictional fears of life in the 2020s.
For this, I turned to my colleague Frank “Craven” Pallotta, CNN Business’s resident expert on Hollywood and horror.
As Frank put it, it was an eerie time for the film industry. The industry is still recovering from the pandemic. With the expansion of streaming, movie theater audiences have been sporadic. Overall North American box office is down about 34% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
But, perhaps surprisingly, horror movies prove to be the second most reliable genre in Hollywood (after superhero movies, of course).
Horrors, like elaborate car chases or fancy fighter jets, are better on the big screen. When you sit with 100 people whose hearts are also beating, the psychologically distorted experience of being startled or stomach-churning is heightened.
“Where else can you have the same experience with hundreds of strangers in one room?” Mark Weinstock, president of Paramount Global Marketing and Distribution, told Frank. “You’re not distracted, you’re just sitting there and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I think it’s something you can only experience in a theater.”
Case in point: One of Paramount’s biggest blockbusters this year is “Smile,” a surprise hit about a psychiatrist tormented by the sight of a terrifying fake smile. It grossed $22.6 million domestically in late September. That total isn’t all that significant on paper, but it was enough to take the top spot in its opening weekend and beat the film’s modest production budget of $17 million.
“Smile” then did something Hollywood didn’t expect: It made nearly the same amount of money in its second weekend, dropping just 18 percent to $18.5 million. That’s almost unheard of for a big movie. For example, “Thor: Love and Thunder” dropped nearly 70% in the second weekend of July.
Bottom line: Horror films’ relatively small budgets and propensity to attract theatergoers make them especially lucrative for the industry. And — good news for horror fans — it could entice the studio to make more of the oft-criticized genre.