Musk takes over Twitter - what next?
Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter puts him right at the centre of the social media and free speech debate - Robert Moore reports
Elon Musk is by some distance the most controversial of the 21st century tech barons who shape so much of our lives.
He has just become a whole lot more powerful.
Musk has now taken over Twitter in a $44 billion deal that places him at the centre of debates ranging from free speech to political misinformation.
He is widely seen as a man who wants to push back at what he has disparaged as a woke agenda, and conservatives have flocked to his banner.
There were dramatic scenes at Twitter overnight as he quickly ousted the top management, including the CEO and the man in charge of policy on the platform.
One immediate question - which will be deeply revealing of his intentions for Twitter - is whether Donald Trump will be allowed back on the social media platform. Throughout his presidency, on an almost daily basis, Trump used Twitter to amplify false information and engage in incendiary political point scoring.
Shortly after taking control, Musk sent a typically cryptic tweet simply saying - “the bird is freed.” Immediately, several right wing politicians and Trump loyalists replied on Twitter with calls for the former president to be reinstated on the platform.
Yesterday, on Twitter (where he has an astonishing 110 million followers), Musk published a statement that made clear he saw the platform as important for the future of the civilisation and as a digital town square.
To his many critics, he added some soothing words: "Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences...Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world.”
He also found time to amuse himself. His Twitter bio now simply reads "Chief Twit."
And a touch bizarrely - well, very bizarrely - he posted a video of himself carrying a sink into the headquarters of Twitter in San Francisco.
Apparently, it was to allow him to post the punchline, "Entering Twitter HQ - let that sink in!"
There are some serious implications in Musk's ownership of Twitter.
We are days away from an election in Brazil and from midterm elections in the US. How will Twitter navigate political misinformation? What happens if losing candidates go on the platform to wrongly allege fraud or a stolen election or hint at political violence? Where does free speech meet civic responsibility? Will he continue to tweet provocative suggestions on the Ukraine war?
Musk has a major footprint beyond earth through Space X, on the ground with Tesla, and now in the digital world though Twitter.
With immense power comes immense responsibility. We will now wait to see just what Musk intends to do with the platform that hosts so much of the global political conversation.
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