Twitter users on Monday expressed a mix of excitement, concern and skepticism over Elon Musk’s takeover of the site. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the reaction reflected the divided political and cultural nature of the ongoing conversation on the platform.
The news generated several trending topics on Twitter, including Mr. Musk’s name and the hashtags #RIPTwitter and #twittersold.
Many have raised questions about Mr. Musk’s plans for the company.
John Scott-Railton, a researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, wrote: “Does Musk plan to let Trump return to the platform? Will he look at the DMs of perceived enemies? he asked, referring to Twitter’s private direct messaging feature.
– Is Musk planning to put Trump back on Twitter?
– Will he look at the DMs of perceived enemies?
— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) April 25, 2022
Officials and policy makers, in the United States and beyond, shared their opinions, showing how the site had become something of a political battleground.
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, posted a poll for Twitter followers, asking, “Is Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter a good thing?” Both answer choices — “Yes” and “No, I hate free speech” — seemed to suggest his support for the decision.
Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, wrote that Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter was “a good deal for shareholders and raises the prospect that the platform will be a place where free speech can thrivenot a tool for narrative application.
Nigel Farage, the British politician who pushed for a radical break with the European Union, wrote on Twitter: “Good news. Many congratulations, Elon Musk. Hopefully this marks a turning point.
On the other side of the political spectrum, lawmakers were concerned about Mr. Musk’s motives and his wealth. “Tax the Rich” wrote Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington. “It’s absurd that one person can afford to buy Twitter for over $40 billion while working families across the country have to choose between groceries or their prescription drugs every day.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, share a similar message: “This agreement is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, hoarding power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and tough rules to hold Big Tech accountable.
Robert Reich, Labor Secretary under former President Bill Clinton, spoke of the fears of many progressives when he wrote on the site: “When billionaires like Elon Musk justify their motives by invoking “freedom”, beware. What they are really looking for is the absence of accountability.
When billionaires like Elon Musk justify their motives using “freedom,” beware. What they are really looking for is the absence of accountability.
—Robert Reich (@RBReich) April 24, 2022
In the business world, Mr. Musk’s allies were optimistic. Keith Rabois, a venture capitalist who worked at PayPal with Mr. Musk, published earlier on Monday“Okay, now I can finally start tweeting.”
The entertainment world has also taken notice. Ice Cube, the rapper and actor, wrote on Twitter: “Finally free !” He tagged Mr. Musk and wrote: “Take off my shadow ban mate”, referring to a subtle form of throttling a user’s posts without letting them know.
Others expressed fears of harassment on the platform, after Mr Musk said he would change content moderation. Users of social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have long complained that harassment is rampant, even with current content moderation efforts.
Dr Peter Hotez, a vaccine researcher who has frequently spoken publicly about receiving online threats after talking about pandemic safety measures, said he was forced to block two to four people or groups almost daily “because of their threatening tweets or threats”. He said on Twitter that he would seek an alternative to the site if hateful responses to him increased significantly.
My take on Twitter: Every day, I block an average of 2-4 individuals or groups because of their threatening tweets or threats. This increases X10-20 when FoxNews anchors whistle/dog attack in the evening. If under Elon Musk things stay as they are, I guess I’ll probably tolerate it, but
— Professor Peter Hotez MD PhD (@PeterHotez) April 25, 2022
And some expressed concern that people would leave the platform. “It’s like a season finale of Twitter,” wrote Jane Manchun Wonga technology blogger and researcher.
But others called Twitter’s abandonment a dramatic response. “I doubt anyone is really leaving Twitter,” read a message from the Twitter account for Spawn Wave, a YouTube platform primarily for technical reviews and video game content. “There’s just too much to complain about these days.”