Features / October 28, 2022

Elon Musk has bought Twitter: why does it matter?

Features / October 28, 2022

Elon Musk has bought Twitter: why does it matter?

Words: Ellen Kenny

Elon Musk is just set on becoming a rich cartoon villain.

Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, is now in charge on one of the world’s largest social media platforms. After months of wrangling and backtracking, Musk has completed his approximately 44 billion dollar deal with Twitter and has bought the network.

Musk tweeted today that “the bird is freed” and changed his bio to call himself the “Chief Twit.” At least he’s self-aware.

What does it matter that a different rich person owns the platform you sometimes tweet from and occasionally find funny posts on? Well, Elon Musk has already detailed some changes he wants to make to the website, and is removing anyone who might try to slow down those changes.

A “digital town square”

One of Musk’s main goals when buying Twitter was to create “a digital town square”. In the past, Musk has repeatedly criticised Twitter’s moderation policies when it comes to hate speech and bullying, and has discussed plans to lessen restrictions on speech so more voices can be heard freely.

This loosening of restrictions includes reversing bans on Twitter users. Musk has previously called the ban on Donald Trump “foolish in the extreme”. Trump was banned after Twitter said he had encouraged the January 6 Capitol Riots in 2021. One of Musk’s friends, Kanye West, was also recently banned from the platform for anti-Semitic messages.

However, Musk has also told advertisers on Twitter that he wants the platform to remain “welcoming” and does not plan on creating a “hellscape”. Trump and West sound pretty hellscape-y to me, so the bans might remain. But given that Musk has removed several top Twitter executives, including the woman who installed the ban on Trump, and he has already been reported as planning to remove lifetime bans, who knows what he will do once he gets comfortable as the Chief Twit?

Twitter’s ability to moderate hate speech and bullying has always been murky, with it seemingly being very difficult to get someone removed from the platform unless they’re inciting national riots. Imagine if all attempts to moderate are simply removed.

Musk’s one-stop-shop

Along with removing lifetime bans, Musk has previously hinted at plans to turn Twitter into “X, the App of Everything.” This ominous-sounding platform sounds to many like a one-stop-shop platform, where people can post, message, shop, manage finances, all in one app. This “super app” is similar to China’s WeChat. So that’s all the information about what you post, who you message, what you buy, in the hands of Grimes’ ex-husband.

This one-stop-shop would also include a lot less official users, as Elon Musk plans to crack down on the amount of spam accounts on the platform. So you might see your follower count drop dramatically in the coming months, but it’s you, it’s Elon.

Sure as long as Ryanair’s social media manager continues to descend into madness in public, what can go wrong?

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