Last Thursday, Elon Musk finalized the acquisition of Twitter for $ 44 billion and almost immediately fired the company’s management team.
It was in April that the head of the electric car manufacturer Tesla first proposed to buy the company, under the pretext of ensuring freedom of speech. But the road to closing the deal was full of pitfalls. Indeed, Musk tried to back out of the purchase claiming he had been duped, before a court case finally forced him to proceed with the deal. After a series of tweets on Wednesday and Thursday suggesting the deal was done, the decision became official on Thursday night.
Within hours, Musk fired CEO Parag Agrawal, general counsel Vijaya Gadde, CFO Ned Segal, and others.
In an open letter to users and advertisers on Thursday, Musk said he bought the company because « it is important for the future of civilization to have a common digital public square, where a wide range of beliefs can be discussed in a healthy way, without resorting to violence. »
In addition, less than 24 hours after finalizing the acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk decided to change the homepage. According to employees who requested anonymity in order to speak without the company’s permission, he requested that logged out users who visit Twitter be redirected to the Explorer page, which displays the most current tweets and news, whereas previously, when visiting the Twitter homepage while logged out, one would only see a sign-up form, encouraging the creation of an account to view the tweets.
The change to Twitter’s homepage is an example of how Musk, less than three days into his tenure as « Chief Twit, » has begun to rapidly change the company from within.
On Friday afternoon, Musk tweeted that he planned to form « a content moderation council with very diverse viewpoints » to help guide the company’s free speech policies, noting that no « major content decisions or account reinstatements will occur until this council meets. »
But he gave no concrete details on when that might happen, or who might be on it.
Paul Knox, a professor at Metropolitan University’s Center for Free Speech, believes the biggest challenge Musk will face is leveling the playing field among voices on the platform.
« Some voices have more economic power and more technical ability to rise above others, » he said in an interview with CBC News on Friday. « So when you say you want to promote free speech, and maximize free speech, you have to take those factors into account. »
Musk portrays himself as a free speech advocate, but Knox says Twitter is not designed to be the free exchange of ideas he says it is and wants it to be.
« These algorithms stimulate the wrong kind of speech because platforms aren’t just there for people to talk to each other. They’re there to make money – to promote products, to sell audiences to advertisers, » he said. « They’re not built to promote rational debate. »