Elon Musk says Twitter can’t be a ‘free-for-all hellscape.’ Users say otherwise
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The attack on Paul Pelosi is a worrying sign of political violence; New York City will start requiring salary ranges on job postings this week; and Elon Musk is sending mixed messages about the future of Twitter. Have a productive Monday.
Mixed messages When Elon Musk first announced his intent to buy Twitter six months ago, the deal set off alarm bells for people concerned about content moderation and safety on the social media platform. Musk calls himself a “free speech absolutist,” objecting to bans and suspensions for bad actors on the site.
Now that Musk has completed the $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter, he’s taken some steps to quell early worries that Twitter could become “a vicious arena where a howling mob shouts obscenities at anyone who dares show up who looks different than they do,” as Michael Kleinman, director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative, characterized the platform in April. But other actions by Musk have done little to ease those concerns over the past few days.
After the deal closed, Musk tweeted, “The bird is freed.” But in what was seemingly a concession to advertisers and influencers worried about the future of Twitter, he tweeted that the platform “obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.” He announced the formation of a content moderation council involved in major decisions, like whether to allow former President Donald Trump back onto the platform.
At the same time, Musk swiftly fired top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal. Among the other execs let go was Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal policy, trust, and safety. Gadde led much of the company’s work around online security and election integrity. In the run-up to the deal, she received online abuse from critics and trolls, who accused her of censorship.
Racist and anti-Semitic tweets have surged on the platform in the deal’s wake, signaling that even if Musk has changed his tune (in public, at least), others still see his ownership as a sign that anything goes.
For some Twitter users, especially women, that’s more than enough. The TV mogul Shonda Rhimes tweeted that she’s “not hanging around for whatever Elon has planned.”
Musk has promised sweeping changes, from product updates to layoffs. To know what will become of the platform, we’ll have to wait for Musk to stop tweeting and start doing—for better or for worse.
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