When Elon Musk took over Twitter, the limits of free speech were tested

Oct 28 (Reuters) – Hours after Elon Musk began a new era at Twitter Inc, the billionaire owner was inundated with pleas and demands from banned account holders and world leaders.

The flood of filings underscores the challenge facing the CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc ( TSLA.O ) as he balances his promise to restore free speech while preventing the platform from descending into a “hellscape,” as he vowed in an open letter. Advertisers on Thursday.

Former US President Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter after the January 6, 2021 capitol riots on charges of inciting violence, welcomed the takeover but said little about a return to Twitter. “I’m so glad that Twitter is now in good hands and will no longer be controlled by radical leftist lunatics and maniacs who truly hate our country.” read more

Dmitry Medvedev, former President of Russia and current Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, tweeted his congratulations: “Good luck defeating political bias and ideological dictatorship on Twitter @elonmusk. And get off Starlink on Ukrainian business.”

Others asked Musk to reverse the penalties imposed by the social media platform. In response to @catturd2, an anonymous account with 852,000 followers who is known to be a big supporter of Trump’s election fraud claims and has 852,000 followers, who said it was a “shadow ban,” Musk tweeted, “I’ll be looking into it more today.”

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Russian state-controlled RT TV channel. asked Musk “Cancel RT and Sputnik accounts and take the shadow ban from mine too?”

The pressure is mounting on Musk and Twitter as he addresses Twitter employees on Friday after closing the deal.

“Hey @ElonMusk, now you own Twitter, are you going to fight Trudeau’s C-11 online censorship bill?” Canada Proud, an organization trying to get Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to vote, tweeted.

“First time I heard,” Musk responded in a tweet on Friday.


Several employees who spoke to Reuters on Friday said there had been no communication from management about what would happen next.

Musk was expected to address employees on Friday, but employees said they had received no notice as of late afternoon.

Two sources familiar with the matter said Musk’s teams are examining Twitter’s code and asking questions about how aspects of the platform work.

Musk joined the company’s Slack channel on Friday, according to a screenshot seen by Reuters.

Musk also tweeted on Friday that he would form a “content moderation board with very diverse views” and that no major decisions about moderation or account reinstatement would be made before the meeting.

At least one major automaker, GM ( GM.N ), said it was temporarily suspending advertising and “working to understand the issues” despite its appeal to advertisers on Thursday that it hopes to make Twitter “the most respected advertising platform in the world.” the direction of the platform under new ownership.”

Workers also continued to worry about the future of their jobs. Less than 10% of 266 Twitter employees surveyed by the messaging app Blind expected to keep their jobs within three months. Blind allows employees to report their grievances anonymously after signing up with corporate emails.

Musk fired Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and head of legal affairs and policy Vijaya Gadde, according to people familiar with the matter. He accused them of misleading him and Twitter investors about the number of fake accounts on the platform.

Sources added that Agrawal and Segal were at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters when the deal closed and accompanied them.

Musk, who is familiar with the matter and also runs the rocket company SpaceX, plans to become Twitter’s interim CEO, according to an earlier report by Reuters. Musk also plans to remove permanent bans on users, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Twitter, Musk and executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Before closing the deal, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters Wednesday with a big smile and a porcelain sink, and later tweeted, “Let it sink in.” He changed his Twitter profile description to “Chief Twit”.

European regulators also reiterated earlier warnings under Musk that Twitter must comply with the region’s Digital Services Act, which imposes hefty fines on companies if they don’t police illegal content.

“In Europe, the bird will fly according to EU rules,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton tweeted on Friday morning.

European Parliament lawmaker and civil rights activist Patrick Breyer suggested people look for alternatives where privacy is a priority.

“Twitter already knows our personalities dangerously well because of its extensive monitoring of our every click. Now that knowledge will fall into Musk’s hands.”

Musk has stated that he sees Twitter as the key to creating a “super app” that offers everything from money transfers to shopping and riding.

But Twitter is struggling to attract its most active users, who are vital to the business. These “heavy tweets” account for less than 10% of total monthly users, but generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue.

Susannah Streeter, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Musk “will have trouble generating revenue, given that controversial ideas he seems to want to give more freedom are unpalatable to advertisers.”

As news of the deal spread, some Twitter users expressed their desire to walk away.

“I’d be happy to leave in a heartbeat if Musk acts like we all expect him to,” said one user with the @mustlovedogsxo account.

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Additional reporting by David Shepardson and Katie Paul; Edited by Kenneth Lee, Nick Zieminski, Deepa Babington, and Jacqueline Wong

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