“The bird is freed.”
This was officially Elon Musk’s first tweet following the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter.
The CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla and the extravagant leader of rocket company SpaceX ushered in a new era of Twitter after a battle of wits (and shares) between him and the previous owners.
“Chief Twit” as Musk has taken to calling himself on the platform, has announced that the bird will fly free in an all-too-clever nod to the Twitter logo.
"The bird will fly by our rules,” the EU responded.
Why do so many people care about how this particular bird flies in the first place?
Musk, a self-described free-speech absolutist, wants fewer limits on the content that can be posted.
Twitter, which was not an example of moderation as it is, can hardly benefit from such a stance.
At the very least, Twitter used to crack down on obvious hate speech and calls to violence, as witnessed by their ban on Donald Trump’s account following the January insurrection.
Those who valued Twitter’s ability to distance itself from extremists (at least some of them) are fearing for the future of one of the largest social media networks in existence. Without permanent bans and insufficient control, they fear Musk will let Twitter slide into dark places.
The European Union shares this sentiment. The EU threatened Musk with the Digital Services Act and reminded him that companies that don’t control illegal content on their platforms don’t do so well in Europe.
Musk did announce that he wants to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber for hate and division. It is too early to say if and how he’s planning on doing that.
Given the $44 billion acquisition price, it’s fair to wonder what it is that Musk wants from the new asset.
Being the “Chief Twit” is all well and good, and hoisting oneself as a bastion of “free speech” is even better, but there is probably more to it than that.
Musk claims he’s looking to fight spam bots and make Twitter’s content suggestion algorithms public. A noble goal, but likely not the main reason he paid such a high price.
One of the first things Musk did following the acquisition was to fire Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde.
Just before the deal closed, he walked into Twitter headquarters with a porcelain sink in his hands and Tweeted: "let that sink in."
Will Twitter become what could be perceived as a very expensive meme? Has it always been one?
We’ll see in the days to come.