In April of 2022, Elon Musk took control of Twitter (now called X) by buying large amounts of shares ultimately totaling $44 billion. After Buying large amounts of Twitter stock in early January of 2022, Elon Musk became the largest shareholder in the company, holding a total of 9.2 percent of the shares. After this, Musk expressed an interest in buying the entire company. The Twitter administration feared a hostile takeover from Musk was imminent, so they implemented strategies that would deter him from buying the site. A few months later, they reversed their position but Musk did not want to buy Twitter anymore. Finally, Elon Musk changed his mind and agreed to purchase the platform.
Elon Musk’s Acquisition
Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter was criticized as a bad business decision. To pay for ownership of the site, Musk had to extract or “borrow” multiple billions of dollars from his adjacent companies such as Tesla and SpaceX. This decision likely resulted in Tesla’s stock price plummeting in the following months.
Additionally, many people speculated that Twitter was massively overvalued as a company, and Musk was being irrational in buying the site for such a high price.
Subsequent Terms of Service Changes
Once Twitter was under the control of the billionaire, massive changes were quickly brought to the site. Elon Musk altered Twitter’s terms of service, claiming that this action would “bring free speech back to Twitter”. Despite Musk’s claims, the less strict terms of service policies have contributed to a sharp increase in hate speech on the site. Indeed, many Twitter users have reported more racist, bigoted, or even outright fascist messages being spread throughout the site. A wealth of empirical evidence in the form of studies and analyses has further proved this reality.
Musk has also unbanned the Twitter accounts of various controversial figures, such as former president Trump.
Additionally, Elon Musk’s supposed free speech absolutism was called into question when he began granting censorship requests to authoritarian regimes like Turkey, silencing critics of the various regimes. Musk has pushed back on these criticisms, saying that not granting these censorship requests would put his employees at risk, citing strict laws regarding social media in those countries.
Since his takeover, Elon Musk has fired approximately eighty percent of the Twitter workforce. Laying off and consequently risking the financial security of employees for no good reason is certainly unethical and he has yet to provide a clear, or distinct reason as to why he laid off so many employees.
The billionaire’s apparent free speech absolutism has been further called into question following his firing of numerous employees who were publically critical of him.
At the end of October 2022, Musk excitedly announced that Twitter Blue, the blue check mark system used to identify celebrities, public figures, or brands, could now be available to everyone if they spend eight dollars per month. This decision was quite problematic, as it allowed for impersonation to take place, and has not ultimately brought in much money for Twitter so far.
There were a few significant cases of impersonation; most notably, a user posing as an insulin company, which caused a short but sharp decrease in stock prices due to confused investors selling their shares of that corporation.
Rebranding to ‘X’
On July 24, 2023, Musk rebranded the name of the entire site to a single letter: X. The billionaire did not do this for any well-described purpose.
Some people, including myself, speculate that he made the change simply because he found the letter x ‘cool’. However, the billionaire may have altered the name because he wanted to attract new users to the site by rebranding it and having it operate under a different name and aesthetic.
Whatever his motivations are, the rebranding will likely hurt Twitter even more than his policies already have. Twitter, previously, has always had a high level of brand recognition. Plus, Twitter had a lot of terminology that was hyper-specific to the brand (like the word ‘tweet’). Both of these factors contribute to its popularity and recognition. Musk’s complete and total rebranding to “X” gets rid of common and familiar brand recognition and terminology, and may therefore hurt the platform’s popularity and relevancy.
Where Twitter is Now
Throughout the entire time since the takeover, Twitter has seen a massive transformation.
Elon Musk has made countless wacky and often downright stupid decisions that not only hurt Twitter as a business but genuinely put people in jeopardy by laying off employees, either arbitrarily, or by allowing the spread of hateful tweets. The business magnate has proposed or even initiated more strange and unwise policies than just the ones mentioned in this article (such as proposing removing the block feature and getting rid of the title for article links)