What's actually going to change now that Elon Musk has bought Twitter?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Photo credit: Chesnot - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chesnot - Getty Images

Over four years ago, back on 21 December 2017, Tesla entrepreneur and billionaire outer space enthusiast, Elon Musk posted a tweet containing just three words: "I love Twitter." In response, Insider host Dave Smith replied, "You should buy it then" and today, he's pretty much done exactly that – Musk has officially struck a deal to take over Twitter for a cool $44 billion (£34.5 billion).

Now, many are asking just how significant this change of ownership actually is, and what it means for us 'regular Joe' app users.

At this early stage, it's obviously too soon to predict how Twitter will change on a day-to-day basis, but it certainly sounds as though Musk is keen to shake things up, saying in his bid to the board of Twitter that the platform has "tremendous potential" that he's keen to unlock.

In a statement about his takeover, Musk discussed the importance of the right to free speech – which as we all know can, in actuality, be a bit of a double-edged sword (namely when used as an excuse by people spouting potentially hateful words, or tweeting in such a way that it incites violence, *cough, Trump, cough*). "Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated," Musk said yesterday, via Twitter (naturally).

"I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans."

Musk has also, according to the BBC, mentioned the possibility of expanding the word count of a tweet and having a retrospective edit function (ideal if you accidentally go viral with a typo, but a tool that could potentially open up a whole can of worms in other instances).

Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

A mass exodus from Twitter?

After the news broke, many of the site's 206 million active daily users, including notable names such as actor Jameela Jamil and London mayor Sadiq Khan, shared their concerns, or said they would be leaving Twitter as a result of the new ownership. Human rights organisation, Amnesty, also tweeted upon hearing that Musk was to become the platform's top dog: "Two words: toxic twitter."

Later, the charity shared a further statement from Michael Kleinman, Director of Technology and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA, which said, "Amnesty has tracked the disturbing persistence of hate speech on Twitter – especially violent and abusive speech against women and non-binary persons [...]

"Regardless of ownership, Twitter has a responsibility to protect human rights, including the rights to live free from discrimination and violence and to freedom of expression and opinion – a responsibility that they already too often fail."

Of course, in response to those who've been vocal in their worries about Musk stepping into his new role, right wingers have said something along the lines of 'boohoo snowflakes' and pointed out that few are yet to delete their accounts.

In what she's referred to as her 'last tweet', Jamil (who has 1 million followers on the app) posted four images of her dog and said she feared that the social media site would evolve into an unregulated cesspit of 'hate, bigotry and misogyny' (like it isn't already?).

"Ah he got twitter. I would like this to be my what lies here as my last tweet," Jamil wrote. "I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny. Best of luck."

Khan used his platform to remind his followers that "free speech cannot mean a free pass for hatred – we must not forget the impacts of online hate speech, which fans the flames of prejudice and leads to appalling and tragic real-world violence. Social media companies must do more, not less, to protect their communities".

Other critics of Musk's takeover have pointed out that Tesla has been dogged for years with multiple allegations of racist abuse (the company have denied wrongdoing in all cases), discrimination and sexual harassment - which doesn't exactly bode well for this whole 'freedom of speech' ethos - and that Musk himself has previously used Twitter to body shame and once referred to a cave explorer who rescued trapped schoolboys as a "pedo guy" (resulting in a defamation case that Musk eventually won).

Current CEO of Twitter, Parag Agrawal, said [via Reuters], "Once the deal closes, we don't know which direction the platform will go."

Hours prior to the deal being announced, Musk tweeted personally saying, "I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means." Given that Twitter user growth has slowed in recent years, it's especially interesting to note that Musk appears to be focussing all of his efforts on the influence the platform can have and it's ability to be an online battleground, or think tank, rather than profit.

That said, Musk is quite literally the richest person on the planet, having an estimated fortune of $273.6bn, largely due to Tesla, The Boring Company and his aerospace firm, SpaceX – so it's not like he needs the cash.

To date, Musk has 85 million followers on Twitter. Let's see what he does with them - and the platform's other 200 million or so regular users - going forward.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting