What’s in store for Elon Musk’s Twitter?

What’s in store for Elon Musk’s Twitter?
FILE PHOTO: A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 28, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Since Elon Musk officially acquired Twitter last Thursday, there have already been some operational changes.

Internally, there have been some major shifts in how Twitter is run. First, Musk let some top executives go, the first of what will probably be major job cuts affecting the company’s 7,500 employees. CEO Parag Agrawal was tossed, as well as CFO Ned Segal and policy head Vijaya Gaddeso (consider the golden parachutes deployed). In a truly bizarre move, Musk also told Twitter engineers to print out dozens of pages of code to be reviewed by Tesla engineers. They were then told to shred these documents because that was a terrible idea.

Onto user-facing changes, Musk intends to work on Twitter’s content moderation policies, really pushing his idea of “free speech.” He also openly disagreed with permanent user bans. When he finalized the Twitter deal, Musk tweeted, “the bird is freed.”

And, of course, that’s when everything went nuts. Hate speech has completely boiled over since then. Trolls are tweeting slurs like crazy and making sexist, homophobic and racist posts. The Network Contagion Research Institute, a social media research group, said that the use of “the N-word” on Twitter increased by nearly 500% in the 12 hours after Musk took the helm.

“Unfortunately, this spike in hateful language is entirely predictable. For most of these trolls, it’s a game. But for others, including certain political influencers, saying hateful, outlandish things helps them increase their audience and make money. And they see this as a golden opportunity to gain even more attention,” explained Dr. Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University.

Advertisers have noticed and are worried about issues with content moderation and potential conflicts over ads. In fact, GM temporarily suspended advertising, saying, “We are engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership.” In response to these concerns, Musk tried to reassure advertisers, saying he wants Twitter to be “warm and welcoming to all” rather than a “free-for-all hellscape.”

We’ll see.