Elon Musk’s $44bn deal to buy Twitter has elicited cheers, concern, and lots of questions for the future, most of them issued on, well, Twitter.
Musk, who has described himself as a “free speech absolutist”, reached a deal with the company on Monday in a takeover that will eventually give him control of the social network, which has more than 200 million users.
The Tesla chief executive is a longtime, highly active, and at times controversial user of the platform, where he has 83m followers. It remains unclear where Musk wants to take the company. Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s CEO, said Twitter’s future under Musk was unclear. “Once the deal closes, we don’t know which direction the platform will go,” he said.
But Musk has offered glimpses into his plans in recent weeks: his proposals include relaxing content restrictions, combatting fake and automated accounts, and shifting away from an advertising-based revenue model.
On Monday, critics and supporters weighed in on what could lie ahead.
The Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been a prominent critic of big tech, warned the deal is “dangerous for democracy”.
The Republican senator Marsha Blackburn said she was hopeful about Musk’s deal to buy Twitter, calling it an “encouraging day for freedom of speech”.
Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, invited Musk to move the company’s headquarters to the Lone Star state.
Some conservative commentators were quick to hail the deal, calling it a “win for free speech”. #BringBackTrump began trending on Twitter, raising speculation on whether the platform would allow the former president back on after he was kicked off in the wake of the January 6 riot at the Capitol (Trump told Fox News he had no plans to return).
Free speech and rights advocates warned of the potential consequences of changes in Twitter’s moderation policies.
The NAACP urged Musk to prevent the platform from becoming “a petri dish for hate speech, or falsehoods that subvert our democracy”.
Angelo Carusone, the president of the nonprofit media watchdog group Media Matters for America, warned Musk would “open the flood gates of hate and lies”, using Twitter “as a cudgel against other social media companies to press them to backslide”.
And Twitter wouldn’t be Twitter if users didn’t poke some fun.
Musk on Monday said he, for one, hoped even his critics would continue to use the platform.