An edit button and a “free speech” plan: what will Twitter’s new era under Musk look like?


Unless you have been living under a rock for the last month, you will know that the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has been attempting to buy Twitter – and that he has now finally succeeded.

After much “will he, won’t he” drama and speculation, it emerged on Monday that Musk had officially clinched a deal to purchase Twitter Inc. for $44 billion in cash, less than two weeks after making his shock bid for the company.

Now that he has the backing of the board, which is going to ask Twitter shareholders to vote to approve the takeover, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has huge ambitions for the micro-blogging platform.

In his statement hailing the news, Musk signaled that his plans to improve the site included “enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”

Musk has also long criticized Twitter’s moderation, with his declaration that he is a “free speech absolutist” leading to widespread expectations of a more ‘hands-off’ approach to this aspect of the platform under his direction, and the reinstatement of banned individuals such as former President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Then, there has been all the talk about finally introducing the ability for users to edit their own tweets – a long-requested feature that Musk also said he wanted in comments at the TED2022 conference earlier this month.

He indicated that he felt the potential problems such a feature might pose could be resolved, suggesting that “I think you only have the edit capability for a short period of time, and zero out all retweets and favorites” after an edit.

The takeover is expected to close later in 2022 – at which point, Twitter’s shares will be delisted and the firm will be taken private. Musk has suggested that this move will give him the freedom to make his desired changes to the business.

It is fair to say that there has been a rush of reaction since the news broke, representing a broad sweep of opinion.

While many conservatives have strongly backed the prospect of less stringent controls on the platform, some human rights activists have expressed concerns that such a policy could give rise to increased hate speech by users.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was among those with warm words, stating that “Elon is the singular solution I trust.” Many governments around the world seemed less enthusiastic – unsurprising in an era in which laws have been put in place to require social media giants to act in certain ways.

For example, Thierry Breton – who is the European Union’s commissioner for the internal market – said to the Financial Times that if Twitter under Musk didn’t comply with the law, consequences could include heavy fines or even the site being banned in the EU.

There are also still many questions about the specifics of how some of Musk’s proposed changes could work, such as how the notion of authenticating humans will affect certain Twitter account types, including parody accounts and anonymous sex workers.

Still, all of that lies ahead. For now, what we know is that some 16 years after its foundation, Twitter is striding into a new era that promises to look quite unlike any other in its history to date – and it looks like being quite the ride.

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