In case you somehow missed the news: It’s official, Elon Musk has bought Twitter. It’s been months of tedious back and forth, lawsuits, whistleblowing, and inanity—but finally, that headline I wrote back in April is accurate.
And, as the cogs of Musk’s Twitter takeover begin to turn, chaos abounds. It is, so far, unclear which of the billionaire’s promises to unleash “free speech” upon the platform will actually come to fruition.
How, for instance, will Elon Musk manage the various authoritarian world leaders congratulating him on his new role of Twitter owner? What will Musk do with the Twitter employees who are/were days away from vesting in the company’s compensation program? Will formerly banned accounts actually resurface? Will hate speech thrive (even more than it already does) on the platform?
None of these questions actually have answers yet, but the ways that people with vested interests in Twitter and Musk are responding online can provide a hint of what might come next.
So, let’s start with the world powers. Russian politician, Dmitry Medvedev, wished Musk luck “in overcoming political bias and ideological dictatorship on Twitter.” The former president and prime minister of Russia, and current security council deputy chair, also playfully(?) scolded the world’s richest man for his support of Starlink satellite internet in Ukraine. And yes, unfortunately Musk has held onto his title even after the $44 billion Twitter purchase.
Saudi Arabian prince and billionaire businessman, Al Walheed bin Talal Al Saud, called Musk his “dear friend” in a tweet alongside a press release announcing the rollover of his Twitter share ownership to the Tesla CEO. “Together all the way,” he added—along with a handshake emoji.
Meanwhile, the EU’s commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton pointed out that Elon’s “freed bird” will still have to “fly by our rules.”
Although Musk has previously promised to welcome back prominent banned figures (i.e. Donald Trump) to the platform, as of writing, Trump has yet to re-appear on Twitter. In his place, Trump’s sycophants have been quick to congratulate the SpaceX founder for his new position. Congressional Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) posted “Congratulations @elonmusk! Now please bring back America’s most trusted news source. @TheBabylonBee.”
And Virginia Senator Dick Black erroneously claimed that he was already experiencing a free-er Twitter. “I’ve been locked out of my Twitter account leading up to the midterm elections. Suddenly, I have access today. Congratulations, Elon Musk,” Black posted. However, his account tweeted two days ago (and two days before that). Based on the Senator’s online activity, it doesn’t seem like he was meaningfully “locked out” of anything.
Musk has vowed lots of changes to come on the platform. Just yesterday, he insinuated there would be some sort of “opt-in” option to access an unmoderated version of the site, while claiming it wouldn’t become a “hellscape.” Yet those celebrating instant shifts in Twitter’s moderation are likely doing so prematurely. Musk himself tweeted on Friday that, “No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen,” until a new “content moderation council” is formed and convenes.
But that didn’t stop many from trying to flout current bans. For example, the far-right conspiracy theorist Stew Peters who has been blocked from the platform for months, created a new account on Thursday. Peters tweeted out “I’m BAAAAAAAAAAACK,” yet was banned again by Friday morning, according to a report from The Washington Post.
Undoubtedly, some people feel that they are more “free” on Twitter, now than before—emboldened in part by the sacking of Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust. And so, there’ve been lots of round-ups highlighting a seeming instant-rise in profanity and racist language. However, it’s important to note that hate speech has thrived on the platform for years, and moderation has perennially struggled to manage it.
Aside from authoritarians and gleeful racists, many of the people responding to the Twitter news are Twitter staff. Although not directly responsible for the fate of the free world, or whatever, a lot hangs in the balance for these company employees. The platform’s 7,500 workers were slated to vest in Twitter’s compensation program on Tuesday. Now, whether or not they’ll be receive their promised payouts remains a mystery, according to a report from The New York Times.
It’s also unknown who at Twitter will retain their jobs. Earlier this week, Musk threatened to cut 75% of the staff. Although he since recanted that statement, the vibe among employees is certainly unsettled.
“The man brought a sink, I am fully expecting him to fire 69% of us on Friday at 4:20pm,” Hugo Striedinger, a software engineer at the social media company, tweeted.
Other employees also posted messages of anger, critique and/or solidarity, many under the hashtag #OneTeam.
Finally, a couple of the supporting characters behind Musk’s Twitter acquisition celebrated. Tech investor Jason Calacanis, who was featured in many of Musk’s private texts filed in Delaware Chancery Court, posted that he would happily accept a position as Twitter’s “Chief Meme Officer.”
Joe Rogan (another of Musk’s text confidants), retweeted a Libs of TikTok post that implied 75% of Twitter employees deserve to be fired because of the benefits the company provides to them.
In the coming days and weeks, Twitter’s future will become more certain. But until then, at least we can look to the stars and the tweets for a taste of what’s to come.