Elon Musk Officially Owns Twitter. What Can We Expect Next?

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The bird is freed. This was one of the many tweets shared by Elon Musk over the weekend, after he officially bought twitter.

The sale cost the richest man in the world a whopping 44 billion US dollars. But will the sale come at a cost to its users?

According to Elon Musk the sale is “important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square”. And that at the moment there is “great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers”.

Dr Belinda Barnet from Swinburne University told Junkee that when “Elon talks about free speech, what he really means is moderation and that we should be reducing moderation”.

Twitter is now private meaning it’s subject to fewer rules like having to disclose more routine performance numbers and can be more tightly controlled by its owner.

Musk has also already fired Twitter’s CEO, CFO, the top legal and policy executive and the general counsel. And has announced some new functions of the platform since taking over.

According to Musk, Twitter could be split into new sections, meaning users can choose whatever version of the social media platform they want to engage in, “just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games”.

“This idea of separate Twitters that he’s just offhandedly talking about so far on Twitter, is maybe in his mind at least a solution to the free speech issue,” said Dr Belinda Barnet.

“If he reinstalls all these accounts which are somewhat toxic to the rest of Twitter, and cuts back radically on moderation, perhaps he can have a separate sphere where all the toxic people live.”

Additionally Musk has proposed a new “content moderation council” which will bring together “widely diverse viewpoints”. The body will apparently decide on any new content policy or account reinstatements.

On the latter, Musk has already teased bringing back former President Donald Trump, who has been under a permanent ban from the platform since Jan 2021.

Dr Belinda Barnet predicts what might happen with Twitter to social platforms like Parler, that start out saying they are all about freedom of speech but “eventually what happens to these platforms is that they discover they need moderation”.

“It’s a process that they go through, where a platform has to get really drowned in misinformation and [becomes] quite toxic before that realisation dawns,” she said.

Twitter has already been hit by a coordinated trolling campaign that saw 50,000 tweets from 300 accounts spreading hateful content, despite the fact that content moderation rules haven’t been loosened yet.

And to make matters worse, Elon Musk made headlines for tweeting about an unfounded conspiracy theory surrounding an attack on the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband. A tweet he has since deleted.

Dr Barnet points out that it’s difficult enough to exist on platforms that have quite reasonable moderation.

“So when that’s lifted, does that mean that life becomes more full of abuse and harassment and is it going to be harder to sort truth from fiction?

It’s a giant experiment and you know, we’ll see what happens.”