Elon Musk struck a deal to buy Twitter Inc for $44 billion cash on Monday. This will shift control of the social media platform populated by millions of users and global leaders to the world’s richest person.
Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey has supported Mr Musk, but analysts and activists have pointed out that there will be more focus now on attention and profit rather than on promoting healthy online conversations. Fellow billionaire and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos said Mr Muck’s deal gives China “a bit of leverage over the town square”.
Mr Musk has been critical of Twitter’s policies, often highlighting his issues with the way the company has been functioning. Among the issues flagged by Tesla and SpaceX CEO are Twitter’s content moderation policy. That is expected to change under Mr Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist.
Discussions over the deal, which last week appeared uncertain, accelerated over the weekend after Mr Musk wooed Twitter shareholders with financing details of his offer.
Under pressure, Twitter started negotiating with Musk to buy the company at his proposed $54.20 per share price.
Now that Mr Musk is in charge, here’s what is expected to change at the “digital town square”.
Content moderation to be diluted? Mr Musk has equated the content moderation policy of Twitter to stifling free speech. In a Twitter poll in March, he asked users: “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”
More than 70 per cent users who participated in the poll said a resounding no, promoting Mr Musk to ask if a new platform is needed.
While conservatives have cheered the prospect of fewer controls under Mr Musk, some human rights activists voiced fears of a rise in hate speech.
Banned users to be allowed back? Political activists expect that a Musk regime will see the reinstatement of banned individuals including Donald Trump, who was banned in the wake of Capitol riots in January last year. The former US President has, however, he has no intention of rejoining Twitter even if his account is reinstated. Trump told Fox News that he will instead focus on his own platform, Truth Social.
But many Twitter users are asking whether a regime change in the 16-year-old company means accounts suspended by the company will be allowed back. Twitter suspended many accounts, like Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, conservative parody site The Babylon Bee, Turning Point USA founder and Executive Director Charlie Kirk and The Christian Post news site.
Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy said she hopes she can return. She was banned for referring to Jessica Yaniv, a biological male who identifies as a woman, as a man.
An edit button for tweets? Mr Musk floated the idea of an edit button in a Twitter poll on April 4. “Do you want an edit button?” he asked in his post. The words yes and no were misspelt to make a point that the functionality would let users fix typos in their posts and make other tweaks.
More than four million votes were cast, with a majority of users supporting the idea.
Twitter has experimented with the functionality, offfering the option to user who pay for its special “Blue” subscription, but Mr Musk plans to make it available to the entier Twitter universe.
Twitter algorithm to be open-sourced? In a March 24 tweet, Mr Musk suggested that Twitter’s algorithm should be open-source. This was again in the form of a poll and 83 per cent of the one million respondents said yes to the idea.
The algorithm is used by Twitter to determine which tweets to promote and which to hide from users’ feeds. Mr Musk says makin it open-sourced will ensure there is no “behind-the-scenes manipulation”. He even suggested posting the code on Github so that people can look for errors and suggest changes.
Will people leave Twitter? Not everyone is happy with Mr Musk taking over Twitter. Though the billionaire has said hopes that even his strongest critics will remain on the platform, many users have threatened to leave Twitter.
Among them is British actress Jameela Jamil. She said the deal will “help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny”.
“I would like this to be my what lies here as my last tweet,” she told her 1 million followers.