The internet has exploded with the news that Elon Musk is purchasing Twitter! It seems our social feeds are filled to the brim with discussions of Elon and Twitter … and there are no signs of this ending anytime soon. Indeed Twitter’s share price skyrocketed after the announcement of the successful bid, nevertheless, disruptive developments to the platform could be afoot impacting its user base and employees.
- Elon Musk’s history as a Twitter user
- The new EU Digital Services Act and how it could affect Musk’s vision for free speech across Twitter
- Upcoming changes to the platform that Musk has suggested include a move away from ad reliance, tweet editing and open-source algorithms
The Acquisition Deal
The $44 billion bid to buy out Twitter, initially proposed by Musk on the 14th of April, was accepted 9 days later. The deal instantly raised questions about the future of the platform and Musk’s role.
The unsolicited offer was made after Musk purchased 9.1% of shares in the platform earlier this year, making him the largest single shareholder in the company. As a result, Musk was invited to join the platform’s Board of Directors, an offer which was initially accepted but later declined by the billionaire. Pending the approval of the offer, Musk has already stated plans to privatize the company along with sharing public criticisms of the current state of the platform which signals major changes for Twitter’s future.
Prior to the bid’s acceptance, Musk teased his interest in purchasing the platform. The first mention of the idea occurred in 2017 when Musk responded to a tweet asking “How much is it?” – referring to the price of Twitter.
Musk’s Twitter History
Musk is known to be something of a troublemaker (to put it mildly) on Twitter with his disruptive responses and questionable takes. In extreme cases his public takes have resulted in lawsuits, declining stock prices and his chairmanship responsibilities being stripped.
Most recently, Musk has used his Twitter account to openly criticise the management of Twitter. On the 24th of March 2022, Musk began sharing polls posing questions, including if they thought Twitter adhered to the principle that “free speech is essential to a functioning democracy” and deciphering what users want to change about the platform!
How The Internet Reacted To The Twitter Takeover
One immediate benefit for Twitter due to Elon’s deal is the social engagement and spotlight on a platform that has experienced slow growth as of late – especially relevant amid a report the platform has miscounted its userbase on a huge scale for years! Thousands of memes, opinions and debates about the deal have hijacked social media. However, as entertaining as some of these memes have been, some user opinions offer an insight as to how people really feel about the Musk takeover.
In a recent poll conducted by Financial Times, only 7% of users agreed that they have considered leaving the platform due to Musk’s takeover. When asked if users agree or disagree with the move, the responses are mixed, one thing people do have in common is that on either side of the argument, people hold extremely strong opinions.
Many people have also turned to Twitter to express concern. These concerns include the changes that Musk wants to implement across Twitter could exacerbate misinformation, and highlight extreme views and human rights intrusions.
Rob Reiner expressed the following:
David Weissman also shared his opinion:
Adversely there are arguments that the deal will have a positive impact on users and the future of the platform, Some users are highlighting the misguided anger people are aiming toward Musk.
Stephen Miller sarcastically remarked:
A factor also important to raise is the new Digital Services Act that has recently been passed by the EU. The Act calls for tech companies to take action and remove offending content from social platforms. Failing to do so immediately will result in hefty fines and potential bans in E.U territories. The Act prohibits content that is representative of hate speech, child sexual abuse, scams and terrorism, and essentially ensures tech companies take more responsibility for the content shared on platforms. This new E.U Act will significantly impact Musk’s future vision for free speech across Twitter in European countries.
How Twitter Employees Reacted
Employees at Twitter have also been sharing their opinions after the entrepreneur’s open criticisms of the platform raised concerns for the future of Twitter and job security. Twitter employees were left with questions such as who will be the CEO and how much control will Musk have over the platform? The current CEO, Parag Agrawal has only held the position for five months after taking the reins from Jack Dorsey, but it appears Elon already has a replacement lined up!
The huge changes Elon Musk plans to make at Twitter will mean shifts in the current employee structure. Staff retention has not been affected since the offer was accepted, however, employees continue to pressure management for answers. Only until Musk assumes full control of the platform will we know his plans and the future for current employees!
Free Speech, Tweet Editing and the Future Developments of Twitter
Although Musk’s vision for the future of Twitter is still uncertain, we do have an idea of his intentions in relation to what he is wanting to change. Let’s run down some of the major changes Musk is set to address:
Musk posed the question to his 87 million followers on whether or not they wanted an edit button across Twitter. Not surprising that “74%” of the “60,000” respondents agreed that they did. However, it was later released that Twitter was already working on this feature prior to Elon’s tweet – what a coincidence!
One argument that arises with the edit feature is how it works if users change the content of their tweets to weaponise viral tweets? Musk has suggested that this could be combatted with all the content’s engagements (retweets and likes) being removed once a tweet is edited. Another way to combat the concern is establishing time frames in which users are able to edit tweets or adding labels similar to what we see on LinkedIn, to show content has been changed, whilst simultaneously alerting previous engagers.
Twitter Blue allows users to pay a subscription fee for added benefits and features. But of course, Elon is not impressed by this feature and wants to address his concerns. In a set of now-deleted tweets, Musk argued that the price of the subscription is too high and those who pay should access an ad-free version of the platform.
Additional talks of NFT marketplaces and Dogecoin-based subscriptions have also been mentioned but nothing is yet confirmed. However, what we do know nothing is off the table with Musk!
An additional vow made by Musk is to, in his own words, “defeat the spam bots or die trying”. This will mean authenticating the identity of each person behind every Twitter account; no longer will users be able to roam the platform anonymously. This feature is set to combat “troll armies” who set out to spam chosen accounts. But platform-wide authentication comes with its own issues. There is a human rights concern and users are distrustful of sharing their personal data with platforms and this new implementation could drive people off the platform.
With the goal to increase trust, Musk wants to open source the platform’s algorithms in order to provide full transparency with content suggestions and ranking. The aim is to show how Twitter ranks different tweets, how it distributes the content to users, how some tweets reach global audiences and others don’t go anywhere and what factors impact the visibility of a tweet. However, this also means users have the ability to hack the algorithm system.
Possibly the most important change yet is the topic of free speech. Musk has been frequently questioning the role Twitter has in censoring the voice of its users.
The ultimate aim is to allow the freedom of users to express their opinions without censorship and to improve the neutrality of the platform in politics. Platforms do have a duty to protect users, which is where ‘free speech’ limitations need to be set in place and platforms need to be held responsible for the content shared using their service.
Musk has addressed the concerns highlighted with complete free speech – including hate speech, extremist groups and misinformation – stating that although he believes in allowing users the freedom to express their opinions, this will be done by referencing the law. Musk tweeted:
This signals that the platform may host a wider range of opinions with minimal censorship, remaining within the constraints of the law. However, the balance between monitoring the spread of misinformation and hate speech while allowing users as much freedom as possible is a fine line from the viewpoint of users, governments and the platform’s best interest. This also raises the question on everyone’s mind, is Donald Trump set to return to the platform after his complete removal from the platform? Well, he could, unless he sticks to his vow to never return and remains on his notoriously unsuccessful Truth Social platform.
What Will The Future Look Like On Twitter?
Only time will tell what the future of the platform looks like under Musk’s ownership! One thing is for certain, Musk will no doubt try his best to make the changes he feels will turn Twitter around. Whether it be the changes addressed above, new feature innovations or tech advancements, Musk is set to disrupt Twitter as we know it. The key threat the platform faces is retaining its userbase if huge changes do occur. However, rapid advancements in Web3 technologies are set to take centre stage and no doubt musk will be at the front of areas such as crypto and NFTs.
The future will be only clear once Musk decides to share them, which will most likely be in a string of tweets shared alongside his consistent trolling on the platform!