Is Twitter is too valuable to lose?
Plus: Ghana battles an economic crisis, Turkish authorities arrest the main suspect behind last week’s terror attack, and the UK is taking its time on post-Brexit trade deals
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Today’s briefing is a ~5.1 min read:
- 🔏 The Twitter saga: too important to fail?
- ➕ Plus: Ghana battles an economic crisis, Qatar opens its airports, and the UK is taking its time on post-Brexit trade deals.
🦃 Scheduling note: The majority of our team is currently based in the US, so we’ll be taking next Thursday and Friday off for Thanksgiving. We’ll be back the following Monday, thankful and five kilograms heavier.
📰 GLOBAL HEADLINES
Stories: Khaleej Times, La Repubblica, The Namibian, Midiario, The Straits Times
🤿 DEEP DIVE
Is Twitter is too valuable to lose?
- Since acquiring Twitter, billionaire Elon Musk has fired 50% of the permanent staff and scared away some of the platform’s biggest advertisers.
- While we don’t know what the future holds for Twitter, it remains an important information and communications marketplace for academics, journalists, activists, and politicians.
Chaos at the bird app
As of the time of sending, Twitter is still a website. But since his takeover on 28 October (how is it only three weeks ago?), Elon Musk has:
- Fired about half of Twitter’s full-time employees and 80% of its contractors
- Dissolved the company’s board and sacked multiple senior executives
- Announced and then withdrew a new verification system that stirred up confusion and caused stock prices to dip.
- And, in late-breaking news, Twitter has closed its offices until next week after an ultimatum to employees to “work long hours at high intensity” or resign has caused concerns the site could go down within days.
Even Musk acknowledged the turmoil in a tweet last week: “Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”
Why should we care?
Twitter has 330 million monthly active users worldwide. While that’s small compared to Facebook or TikTok, Twitter is a vital source of real-time information for journalists, academics, activists, and knowledge economy workers everywhere.
The chaos of Musk’s takeover has many of those folks worried:
- Chris O. Ògúnmọ́dẹdé, West Africa foreign policy analyst
“[Twitter] is basically the only real avenue for many in the West to come across people and perspectives from the “Global South” they may never have.”
- Caroline Orr Bueno, disinformation and crisis communications expert
“Twitter has been a vital source of information, networking, guidance, real-time updates, community mutual aid, & more during hurricanes, wildfires, wars, outbreaks, terrorist attacks, mass shootings…etc. It’s not something that can be replaced by any existing platforms.”
- Kirsten Han, Singapore-based journalist and activist
“Twitter has been, and is, an extremely valuable tool in allowing me — a freelance journalist and activist with limited resources and no big institutional backing — to talk to people outside of #Singapore about […] the death penalty, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, politics and democracy”.
If Twitter is to survive its current situation and emerge stronger, it will have to navigate some serious challenges:
- 💸 Financial woes – Musk’s chaotic temperament led several big-name advertisers to abandon the platform. Ads currently account for 90% of the company’s revenue, and Twitter allegedly has a $1B interest bill annually.
- 🏰 Political pressure – Musk’s companies have substantial overseas operations and some commentators worry that foreign governments could pressure Musk to make changes to the platform.
- 🔎 Regulatory scrutiny – Last week, the US Federal Trade Commission warned the billionaire that “No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees”, a sentiment echoed by the EU data protection watchdog.
For our part, we use Twitter daily to source and cross-check stories, so we’re selfishly hoping Musk gets his s*** together before he destroys what is, at its best, a uniquely powerful informational tool.
Will Twitter exist in 12 months?
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🔦 REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Africa & the Middle East
Ghana’s economy is battling “malevolent forces”, according to President Nana Akufo-Addo, with inflation reaching a 21-year high and debt servicing accounting for 47% of government revenues.
- Ghana is beginning to negotiate with the IMF over a loan worth almost $3B.
Iran has released two Greek-flagged tankers it seized in May, bringing an end to a diplomatic row between the two countries.
- The two tankers were detained after the US confiscated the oil cargo of an Iranian-flagged ship off the Greek coast.
🇨🇮 Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast has announced it will begin withdrawing its troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
- The Malian military has detained 46 Ivorian soldiers since July, who were not employed directly by the UN but instead contracted through a private company.
The EU has warned Kuwait that its recent execution of seven people, three of whom were foreigners, will harm its bid to obtain a place on the bloc’s visa-free travel list.
- The executions were the country’s first since 2017.
Soccer fans from Israel will be allowed to fly directly from Tel Aviv to Qatar’s capital, Doha to attend the World Cup.
- Qatari officials clarified that the air travel deal does not indicate a normalisation between the countries.
🗞 IN OTHER NEWS…
Sunak isn’t signing any trade deals anytime soon
The news: The United Kingdom blew past a (self-imposed) deadline to reach a free trade agreement with India by Diwali.
- Speaking before a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised not to “sacrifice quality for speed” in finalising the deal.
Backtrack: Britain’s formal departure from the European Union economic community in 2021 means it must negotiate its own trade agreements for the first time in 47 years.
- Sunak’s predecessors, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, were intent on quickly signing post-Brexit bilateral agreements to reintegrate the UK with former trade partners.
Their hastiness may have come at a cost. Former Environment Secretary George Eustice said Monday that Johnson’s deal with Australia “gave away far too much for far too little in return”.
Hold-up: Sunak hopes New Delhi will open its fast-growing services sector in exchange for visas for Indian students.
- The visa deal comes after his hardline Home Secretary Suella Braverman – who, like Sunak, traces her lineage to India – angered negotiators when she announced “reservations” about increased Indian migration.
Plus, the India deal is only one of almost a dozen on Sunak’s plate. Negotiations with Britain’s largest trade partner, the United States, are entering their fourth calendar year and show no signs of finishing soon.
- But amid economic turmoil and record-breaking inflation, time may be of the essence to get these deals across the finish line.
🍸 FRIDAY QUIZ!
- It is illegal to paint your house without a license, as well as to dance spontaneously in public in which European country?
- Forgetting your wife’s birthday is illegal in which Pacific Island country?
- Laughing with your mouth open would be bad manners in which country?
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A: 1) Sweden ; 2) Samoa ; 3) Japan