Takeaways on Musk’s Twitter takeover

Tesla CEO Elon Musk officially took over Twitter in a $44 billion deal late Thursday night.

The purchase is a seismic moment for Twitter that will also shake up the worlds of media and politics.

Musk, whose up-and-down effort to buy Twitter looked in doubt just weeks ago, has vowed to change the way the social platform avidly used by politicians, celebrities and the media operates.

He describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” which has led to expectations that he’ll bring back to Twitter people who have been previously banned.

Shortly after the deal was finalized, Musk took to the social media platform to tweet “the bird is freed” and “let the good times roll.” 

Here are five takeaways from Musk’s takeover of Twitter.  

Trump’s permanent ban could be reversed 

Former President Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter last year after he incited his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But that could change now that Musk is in charge.  

Musk’s primary interest in obtaining Twitter earlier this year was due to his interest in free speech. He has criticized the platform’s leadership for their content management rules, which Musk contended showed a “strong left bias.”  

A Trump return to Twitter just as the former president may announce a new bid for the White House would be a big deal. Trump used Twitter to control the news cycle as a candidate and during his presidency, and replicating those efforts with his new Truth Social platform has been less successful.

It’s unclear if Trump will want to return to Twitter, as doing so would damage Truth Social.

On Friday, he said in a message on his own platform that he was glad Twitter was in “sane” hands, but didn’t commit to a return.

Back in May, Musk said during an event hosted by the Financial Times that he would reverse the platform’s existing ban on the former president.  

Musk’s first day starts with cleaning house  

After acquiring Twitter, Musk immediately fired several of the platform’s top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde.  

All three of the executives had “golden parachute” clauses in the purchase agreement with Musk, meaning that the world’s richest man will have to cough up $204 million in severance to the trio. They are also entitled to a year’s salary and health insurance.  

More importantly, those executives were behind a number of the standards on content that Twitter had relied upon over the last couple of years.

Their exit and Musk’s entrance adds to questions about whether Twitter will become even more of a “Wild West” environment where bullying and race- and gender-based attacks are not moderated.

The political right is hailing the takeover 

Republicans have long complained that social media leans to the left, and they have mostly been applauding Musk’s takeover.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, cheered Musk’s buying of Twitter, calling it “the most important development for Free Speech in decades.”  

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted out celebratory messages about free speech, with Boebert promising that “a lot of suppressed truths, on social media and in Congress,” will come “to light in the next two years.

Twitter has pushed back against arguments it is biased against conservatives, and there is evidence that right-wing content has no trouble finding large audiences on social media.

Hate speech is popping up

Multiple instances of hate speech have appeared on Twitter since Musk acquired the platform. (Getty)

Early Friday, numerous anonymous Twitter accounts praised Musk’s takeover and then began to spew racist and antisemitic comments on the platform.  

“Elon now controls twitter. Unleash the racial slurs. K—S AND N—–S,” said one account, according to The Washington Post, while another said, “I can freely express how much I hate n—–s … now, thank you elon.”  

Before finalizing his deal with Twitter, Musk posted a note to Twitter that appeared designed to quell fears among advertisers that the platform could become a free-for-all.

“Twitter can obviously not become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” the note reads. “In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences…” 

Finding a balance between free speech and having a free-for-all where hate speech is tolerated will be a challenge for Musk, who has vowed to make Twitter more profitable.

An uncertain future

The future of Twitter under Musk is difficult to predict.

The company has been public since 2013 and now, as a private entity, it will not be required to make public disclosures about its performance every quarter.

Twitter’s 7,500 employees are concerned about the future of their workplace. Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that Musk planned on laying off 75 percent of Twitter’s workforce if he acquired the company. And even though Musk denied he would make such massive cuts to Twitter staff, layoffs are still expected under the billionaire’s leadership.

Twitter employees receive stock in the company as part of their compensation. But now that the company is set to become private, Musk agreed to pay out the stock workers already have and to give cash bonuses in the future.

The payouts are worth $100 million at this point, and some workers fear that Musk will turn to layoffs before making good on his promise to pay up, according to The New York Times’s DealBook.

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