Elon Musk’s Twitter Acquisition is a Disaster

Photo Credit: Adweek

Photo Credit: Adweek

Prashaan Malwana, Editorials Editor

Since Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter in late October, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has made a deliberate point to attempt to limit censorship and encourage free speech on the platform. Citing the worrying increase in the silencing of primarily right-leaning and “wrongfully” banned accounts, Musk vowed to make Twitter a more bipartisan and open space for those of all political affiliations. Thus, the unsurprising but heavily controversial unbanning of figures like Kanye West and former President Donald Trump, paired with the massive reduction in Twitter’s workforce and paywall, has led to criticism from both sides of the aisle. Leading critics to wonder if the promise of free speech outweighs the sacrifices made. 

One of the first steps Musk took towards improving Twitter was cutting the company’s 7,500-person worldwide workforce in half. Claiming that the current amount of workers was far too much, Musk explained how the app would be able to run the same or even better without the excess. As of publication, Musk has maintained his word. Understandably, however, the action was met with outrage and criticism from the media, with the loss of jobs for over 3,000 workers and the potential jeopardization of Twitter’s status. Even still, the halving of active employees has yet to make a noticeable mark on Twitter’s interface and productivity. Workers who were spared of the mass layoff cited a notable increase in work hours and the removal of work-from-home capability, changing Twitter’s work atmosphere. 

Prior to Musk purchasing Twitter, the company was struggling to profit, this became exacerbated by the transfer of ownership. To combat this, Twitter introduced a subscription service, Twitter Blue. At $8 a month, users were promised priority tweets over others and early access to features like editing tweets and bookmarks. Shocking to many, however, subscribers were also promised the familiar blue verification checkmark next to their Twitter handle, regardless of status. These changes brought many issues upon their release. Prior to Blue, the verification checkmark was a telltale sign that the user was of notable significance, and had their identity verified officially by the app. With the purchasable checkmark, however, users were able to impersonate their favorite celebrities to a more realistic degree and send Tweets in their name. Such cases caused misinformation to be spread, and in more dire scenarios, companies to lose profits. As a result, users who paid for Blue had the ability to change their name restricted, and a clause was set wherein any impersonation of accounts would result in the removal of Blue from the user and potential suspension. Elon’s reasoning for adding the subscription service was to give “power to the people ” and allow everyone to receive a checkmark. Since then, however, Twitter has implemented an “official” tag to distinguish people who originally had the blue checkmark from people who have simply paid for it. 

Free speech on Twitter is not a bad concept but has proven to be less than desirable in practice. The craze about free speech has heightened hate speech and increased hostility in many aspects of the platform. The Center for Countering Digital Hate produced a study showing the usage of the n-word since Musk has tripled when compared to the 2022 average. Gay and trans slurs have also increased by over 50%, a direct result of a lack of content moderation which could have come from the thousands that Musk laid off, proving that what employees he does have cannot overcome the amount of racism and hate speech that has since spouted. Using his reasoning that the only accounts banned should be ones that incite violence or break the law, it can be interpreted that the only tweets deleted will be held to the same criteria in order to maintain the integrity of free speech with extreme cases as exceptions. 

Ultimately, a majority of Musk’s changes have proven to be consequential and have relatively failed to carry out what they were intended to do. The unbanning of Kanye West led to his ban a few days later after posting an anti-Semitic symbol. Trump has neglected to tweet after being reinstated and the media continues to hound Musk over his inconsistencies with Twitter Blue. It is of utmost importance to maintain an open mindset and wait for things to settle down, but as of now, Elon Musk’s new policies have been nothing short of disastrous.