Jokes, cheers and dire warnings: Twitter reacts to Musk’s takeover

As the self-declared ‘free-speech absolutist’ takes the reins, some activists and politicians fear for the platform’s future

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.

I love Twitter

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 21, 2017

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”.

This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold Big Tech accountable.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 25, 2022

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”.

Today is an encouraging day for freedom of speech. I am hopeful that Elon Musk will help rein in Big Tech’s history of censoring users that have a different viewpoint.

— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) April 25, 2022

Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, invited Musk to move the company’s headquarters to the Lone Star state.

.@elonmusk. Bring Twitter to Texas to join Tesla, SpaceX & the Boring company.

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 25, 2022

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).

This is a huge win for free speech!

— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) April 25, 2022

"#BringBackTrump" is trending on Twitter following news billionaire Elon Musk plans to buy the platform.
Trump told Fox today, "I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH."
We'll see about that. Truth has had some big issues and Trump has still only posted once.

— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) April 25, 2022

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”.

"Mr. Musk: free speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable. Disinformation, misinformation and hate speech have NO PLACE on Twitter.” @DerrickNAACP

— NAACP (@NAACP) April 25, 2022

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”.

All the biggest racists, worst people and most deceitful political smut peddlers are enthusiastic about Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. Tells you everything you need to know about where this is all going.

— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) April 25, 2022

3/ Musk will claim this is about free speech. But, it's actually about ideology. He made that clear, like when talked about the need for liberals/others to become red pilled. Now, he'll have a massive engine to red pill many. Red pilling isn't free speech, it's radicalizing.

— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) April 25, 2022

And Twitter wouldn’t be Twitter if users didn’t poke some fun.

elon musk spending $43 billion to stop getting bullied on twitter when he could’ve simply been less annoying is insane

— first-mate prance (@bocxtop) April 25, 2022

“Couldn’t Elon Musk have bought Russia”

— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) April 25, 2022

Musk on Monday said he, for one, hoped even his critics would continue to use the platform.

I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022


Dani Anguiano in Los Angeles

The GuardianTramp

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