Like the rest of the world, I have watched in amazement since news was announced in April that Elon Musk has bought Twitter, and studied every single response that the world’s richest man got in response.
But in this blog, I’m going to give my own take on what Elon Musk becoming the CEO of Twitter actually means — just a few days after news was announced that Mr Musk has completed his $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover of Twitter, while showing respect for both sides of the argument. I will then give my own thoughts in the end.
The timeline of Elon Musk’s takeover is as following:
- January: News is released that Musk has began investing in Twitter.
- 14th of March: Musk’s stake in Twitter reached 9.2%, which made him the largest shareholder in the company.
- 4th-5th April: On the 4th of April the, Mr Musk discloses his stake in Twitter, and one day later, Twitter announces that Musk would join the companies board of directors.
- 10th-14th April: Musk says that he would not join the Twitter board after all, then four days later, offers to buy Twitter at $54.20 per share.
- 15th of April: A day later, Twitter adopts a poison pill provision to prevent the Musk acquisition, and in an announcement says the poison pill will be triggered if any individual or entity acquires at least 15% of the company’s shares.
- 21st-25th April: Musk says he has garnered commitments of about $46.5 billion in financing for a possible Twitter acquisition, and on April the 25th, Twitter accepts Musk’s offer to acquire the company.
- 4th-6th of May: Musk secures more than $7 billion in financing, and two days later — in a pitch deck for investors — he promised to quintuple Twitter’s revenue by 2028, which would increase Twitter’s earnings to $26.4 billion.
This is when Elon Musk’s promises for bringing back free speech to Twitter becomes the big story.
The whole thing happened on the 10th of May, when Musk said he would reverse Twitter’s ban on former US President, Donald Trump’s account.
Following this announcement, a lot of Twitter accounts began to panic that this would help reverse Twitter’s hate speech guidelines — many of them activists. Some of these activists were worried about a rise in disability hate crime, some feared a rise in Homophobia (though many who are gay would argue they’ve been faced with a Woke version of that for months), while others feared a rise in online racial attacks, etc.
The timeline continues like this:
- 12th-13th May: Twitter announces a hiring freeze, thus pending Mr Musk’s acquisition. A day later, Musk tweeted that the Twitter deal was temporally on hold. And within two hours, Musk admitted he was still committed to the deal.
- 26th of May: Twitter shareholders bring a class-action lawsuit against Musk.
- 6th of June: Musk threatens to pull out of his deal with Twitter if the platform doesn’t provide information about the prevalence of bots on its platform. In a statement, Twitter claimed that it had been sharing information with Musk “in accordance with the terms of the merger agreement.”
- 8th of July: Musk moves to terminate his acquisition of Twitter, pointing to the issue of fake accounts.
- 12th of July: Twitter sues Musk in Chancery Court in a way to force him to complete the deal.
- 19th of July: A court in Dalaware determines that the trial brought on by Twitter against Elon Musk should take place in October.
- 23rd of August: Former Twitter Head of Security, Peiter Zatkp alleged in a federal whistleblower complaint that the social media giant had numerous wide-ranging information security system lapses, according to a copy of the complaint made public.
- 4th of October: Musk proposes the completion of a deal to acquire Twitter.
- 28th of October: Elon Musk completes his $44bn deal
Elon musk’s first tweet after completing the deal read “The bird is freed”.
What all has happened since?
In the days that have followed since the deal was completed, Musk has fired 4 top Twitter Executives.
It has also been suggested that he plans to change Twitter’s Super Follows feature to Subscription in a new update to Twitter’s mobile app. And it has also been speculated that Mr Musk has discussed using Starlink — his satellite-based internet service at SpaceX — as a way of making Twitter available in countries where it is hard to access.
Another change which — according to the BBC — Elon Musk also wants to make — is revamping the blue tick.
Have Twitter’s Hate Speech Policies Changed and Should We Be Worried?
This has been by far one of the biggest fears that Twitter users have had, with a lot of activists having voiced their fears for months now. Trolls have already started testing the new limits already — with a tide of slurs and memes — but generally it might be too soon for any of us to form any opinion as to whether or not we should be worried about whether this means losing Twitter’s policies against hate speech.
Firstly, it’s important to note the differences between Hate Speech and Freedom of Speech that we’ve had over the last weeks, months and years, that being between speech that attacks or threatens, and that which is intended to insult (whether jokingly or abusively), or speech where some people just respectively disagree, and lay out the reasons for which they do so.
And we also can’t pretend that the old Twitter that existed before Elon Musk took over as CEO of Twitter was completely free of Hate Speech or didn’t show any examples of people who were allowed to get away with being hateful as well, because we all know about accounts who were.
Nonetheless, policing of proper hate speech is going to be an ongoing uphill battle for Elon Musk while making sure freedom of speech continues to survive. According to an article on Bloomberg, however, Musk has tweeted how Twitter will form a content-moderation council which will include widely diverse viewpoints. So far, no changes have been made to Twitter’s hateful conduct policy or Twitter Rules.
Mr Musk might also be eligible for facing criticism himself though in some of the things that he has done — some would argue — against free speech though — in keeping some high profile profiles and highly popular anonymous profiles blocked, and deciding who should remain blocked and who shouldn’t.
While there might be a risk of some Hate Speech rising — and of course; proper Hate Speech against all communities should absolutely be stomped out — we can’t pretend that no Hate Speech existed before Elon Musk became CEO of Twitter.
I know for a fact that I saw disabled people facing actual disability Hate Crime (some of whom I am friendly with but have also respectfully disagreed with), and there have also been cases where women who don’t want to share a bathroom, sport teams, or to have transwomen or biological men looking after them receiving rape and death threats, who when reported, don’t have their Twitter accounts completely taken off them, and who are only suspended for a couple of days.
Likewise, I have also respectfully disagreed with other disabled people before over whether not all disabled people should have locked down for two years, as not all disabled people have bad underlining health.
Hear me out here; I feel absolutely awful for all people who have bad underlying health, and who have suffered or lost family members because of Covid throughout the Pandemic. However, I think there is a point in asking how do we differentiate between people with bad underlying health and those who do not (yes; there are disabled people who are not always sick). Furthermore, if physically disabled people with good underlying health give into the pressures put onto them that they shouldn’t go out, how many disabled rights do we risk losing? It’s been hard enough to convince Theatre Groups, Night Clubs, and other activity groups to allow disabled people to get involved, so how much of these would ableist people take away, if those who can and want to go out continue hiding away?
Lastly, however, there is a point in continuing to fight for the survival of freedom of language and art.
People have been fighting over the language included in everyday language for years now, but also about whether lyrics, quotes, books etc should include anything that refers to being “Paralysed in love”, “paralysed with love” or feeling “tongue tied” or “brain dead” because you can’t believe something that has happened.
I am paralysed, and I can and will say that will 100% always be the case, because as it is the only experience I have the memory of living (though I know I was non disabled before 9th of April 2001), I don’t want to change it. If someone came over to me and said that they didn’t think my life was worth living, I would try to convince them how it isn’t actually that bad, if someone showed me actual hate, I would report it, and if someone hypothetically said that all paralysed people should be locked away or killed, I would be the first in making sure that that person should be challenge or stopped.
But there is absolutely nothing ableist in someone saying that they are “paralysed with fear”, “paralysed in love”, “tongue tied because they don’t know what to say”, or “brain dead” because they can’t believe what has happened or are bored — which in themselves — are a figure of speech.
So although Elon Musk becoming CEO of Twitter might mean a return to Hate Speech, I think it’s important that we don’t make any judgements for at least a couple of months.
But for this reason, I think Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter makes it a mixed blessing that helps fight Hate Speech, while allowing for Freedom of Speech as well.