Elon Musk Begins His Reign Over Twitter

The holiday season is a time for buying and giving gifts. Elon Musk recently purchased a small gift for himself with $44 billion of his $181 billion fortune. This gift, of course, is Twitter. Musk promises to turn the platform into a haven of free speech and to take the company private. This means that every decision regarding Twitter would be made by the richest person in the world. What will Musk’s leadership mean for this influential platform, which serves as a center for business and political leaders, average people, news, misinformation, hatred, and toxicity?

Many users believe that billionaires should not have that much power. Junior Aimee Quinlan explained, “There is no reason he should own Twitter. Just because he has the money, does not mean he should.” Amelie Duch, a junior, also believes that billionaires have too much power. Duch said, “Wealth often results in power and increased influence, often giving the wrong people lots of power to do as they please. Musk is a true example of this as proven by his purchase of Twitter.”

About 500 million tweets are sent out per day, according to BU Today (www.bu.edu), displaying the enormous influence that Twitter holds. And now, there is a rogue billionaire in control of this platform. Since the beginning of America, those with money have taken control and demanded they be left alone to conduct their business. Musk has already applied this notion to his electric-car company, Tesla, and his space company, SpaceX; he now has the ability to promote his business and political notions with a tweet.

Musk claims that he took over the platform as a “free speech absolutist,” and he fulfilled his promise of reinstating Donald Trump, along with 62,000 other previously suspended accounts, back onto the platform, according to CNBC (www.cnbc.com). He also has expressed his opposition to policing the platform for political disinformation and misinformation. Musk has also expressed that he will limit censorship and loosen content moderation rules. This means that misinformation will circulate, as long as it discredits his political opponents and credits himself and his allies.

Musk has negatively utilized Twitter in the past. He has made misleading claims about COVID-19 (the platform has recently ended its COVID misinformation policy under Musk),  mocked those who display their gender pronouns on the platform, and even compared Twitter’s past CEO, Parag Agrawal, to Joseph Stalin, according to Fortune (www.fortune.com). Now that Musk oversees Twitter, he may continue to spread more misinformation and hatred on the app. 

Musk has continuously characterized himself as an advocate for free speech and the First Amendment. However, this free speech absolutism seems to only apply to his fans and supporters. When Tesla laid off employees, they were forced to sign a non-disparagement clause with no end date. This means that the laid off employees are not allowed to say anything negative about the company. This also required employees to keep details about their lay off hidden. Tesla employees have reported racist, sexist, discrimination, and unsafe working conditions. The employees who did bring up these concerns were then fired, according to CNBC (www.cnbc.com). Musk has tried to tamper with free speech by asking Tesla users to agree to not post negatively about FSD Beta, an experimental driver assistance software package that some users were asked to test out. Musk has also attempted to control the media’s view of him, such as by having reporters sign non-disclosure agreements or show story drafts to the company before publishing articles. 

Users have mixed views on Musk’s free speech visions. Sophomore Miranda Mangru believes his vision can create a more authentic future for Twitter as Musk plans to take away restrictions on free speech. However, regarding this idea, Mangru said, “I can also see an abundance of conflict unroll as people’s unfiltered opinions and thoughts can and will spark some dangerous social behavior amongst the platform.” Duch agrees, “I believe there will be an increase in the amount of homophobic, racist, antisemitic, and sexist tweets shared.”

Musk has already begun to transform Twitter. He has instituted a massive layoff of employees through email, including many longtime employees of the company. Workers soon after began to sue, claiming that the company violated state and federal labor laws. The company has also faced a decrease in ad revenue recently. From cutting employees to dropping revenues Musk has not shown to be a good leader of Twitter thus far.

Elon Musk will continue to use his new platform to push forward his motivations and influences. Musk simply does not care about free speech and only uses this phrase to entice others to get onboard with his ambitions. Free speech is only protected by Musk if it supports himself and his followers. He will continue to treat the platform as a “game” or a “gift” at the expense of users and Twitter employees.