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Elon Musk says Twitter can’t be a ‘free-for-all hellscape.’ Users say otherwise

October 31, 2022, 12:25 PM UTC
Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter
Elon Musk has his hands full with Twitter.
Patrick Pleul—Picture alliance/Getty Images

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.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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Range of preparation A new law is set to go into effect in New York on Tuesday requiring employers to list a salary range on job postings. Companies like JPMorgan and American Express have already started to list salary ranges ahead of the law’s implementation. Wall Street Journal

Dangerous consequences Democrats are warning of escalating political violence after a man broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home on Friday and attacked her husband. The attack, thought to be intended for the congresswoman, has the same root causes as the Jan. 6 insurrection, lawmakers say. Guardian

MOVERS AND SHAKERS The NBA hired Paramount+ senior VP of consumer marketing, streaming Tammy Henault as CMO. Laura Kavanagh will be the first woman to lead the New York City Fire Department. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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Take three Xi Jinping’s third term as president of China is likely to continue a trend of the past 15 years: walking back progressive policies that benefit women. The consequences include stigma against unmarried women, online censorship of feminist discourse, and lack of action against gender discrimination in the workplace. Fortune

Doctor’s orders Women doctors are twice as likely as male physicians to be called by their first name, according to a new study. But that gap can mostly be attributed to male patients; female patients are 40% less likely to call their doctors by their first name. NPR

ON MY RADAR

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PARTING WORDS

“I thought to myself, I’m rolling up my sleeves and I’m getting in. I don’t need to be front and center, I’m here to support.”

—Michaela Coel on joining the Black Panther franchise after the death of Chadwick Boseman

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