By: Ella Marrufo
After months of back-and-forth talk and endless rumors, multi-billionaire Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and SpaceX, finally bought Twitter on Oct. 27 for 44 billion dollars. According to Musk’s Twitter posts, his goal is to turn the platform into a safe haven for free speech, where “a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.”
While on the surface his goals for Twitter may seem like a necessary change for the often toxic environment of social media, people fear that Musk will eliminate censorship completely, creating a cesspool of hate speech and conspiracy theories on the site. He has talked at length about unbanning former US President Donald Trump, maintaining that Twitter is too “left-bias.” However, Trump’s Twitter ban had nothing to do with his political party; rather, Trump used Twitter after the January 6 attack in the Capitol to incite violence and promote conspiracy theories. For reasons that are unclear, Musk seems adamant that Twitter should be a politically charged, angry space.
Musk has begun implementing several new changes to the platform. One of these includes requiring users to pay eight dollars monthly to keep their blue-checkmark verification. Regarding the new verification program, Musk aims to stray from only celebrities getting the checkmark and more toward everyone having equal opportunity. In a post from Nov. 1, Musk stated, “Twitter’s current lords and peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is [nonsense]. Power to the people!” This change is potentially problematic, as it makes it so people who have rightfully earned their verification will be punished, while giving power to users who have done nothing at all. Musk thinks he is giving power to the common people, when really this change only appeals to the wealthy; what average person has the money to pay eight dollars a month just for a blue checkmark? Twitter users have already started to abuse this new power; phony accounts impersonating people like Lebron James and George W. Bush have emerged, sending out false information and creating confusion about which user is the authentic one.
Probably the most damning evidence of Musk’s reign of terror was his decision to lay off approximately half of Twitter’s staff. Musk terminated 3,700 jobs — laying off some during the middle of the night, and leaving others unaware of their termination. Musk cited the reason for the layoffs being that there “is no choice when the company is losing over [four million dollars a day].” He also may have violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act, which requires a 60-day notice to all employees before a mass layoff, but the decision regarding Musk’s penalization is yet to be confirmed because of the severance package. Already 13 billion dollars in debt and the new owner of a company that is only losing millions by the day, it will be fascinating to see what changes come to both Twitter and Musk himself in the near future.
(Sources: Washington Post, N.Y. Times, Bloomberg, BBC News, CBS News, Protocol)