The saga is over. Elon Musk has finally bought Twitter after months of to-and-fro marked by legal rows, U-turns and, inevitably, Twitter spats.There will be more drama to come, by virtue of the platform’s centrality to news and politics as well as the unpredictable personality of its new owner. But the months leading up to the deal have been compelling corporate entertainment for bystanders. Here is a timeline of what happened: The twisty, drama-filled Elon Musk-Twitter saga: a timeline
After Musk’s takeover, the question on everyone’s mind is whether former president Donald Trump will be allowed to return to the platform after being permanently removed in January 2021.Trump responded to the Twitter deal on his own platform, Truth Social, on Friday, stating he is “very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands”.“Twitter must now work hard to rid itself of all the bots and fake accounts that have hurt it so badly,” he wrote. “I LOVE TRUTH!”Musk seemed to allude to the question of whether Trump would return to the platform in a Tweet on Friday, stating that the platform would be forming “a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints” to address such issues.Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2022
Months before purchasing Twitter, Elon Musk said he believed the platform’s direct message feature should be end-to-end encrypted which would prevent anyone except the sender and recipient from accessing the messages. Now, digital privacy group Fight for the Future has asked the newly minted social media platform owner to confirm his plan to secure Twitter’s messaging feature. Fight for the Future has previously launched a campaign pressuring all tech companies to encrypt their messaging services by default including Apple and Facebook. Many have expressed concern about their privacy and security on Twitter now that Musk has taken over. End-to-end encryption would not only secure messages from the peering eyes of people inside the company but it would also make messages safe from hacks as well as law enforcement requests. Hi @elonmusk just checking on this. Will you re-affirm that you plan to make Twitter DMs end-to-end encrypted? Can you please give a timeline for how soon this will happen? This is one of the most important things Twitter could do to protect human rights and free expression. https://t.co/WCLritjdiQ— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) October 28, 2022
Hi, it’s Maanvi Singh, taking over the blog from my colleague Gloria Oladipo.Now that Elon Musk owns Twitter, does that mean he can access anyone’s Twitter data?Vox had a good story on what happens to your DMs, and whether they’re safe from Musk:Now, is Musk going to waltz into Twitter’s headquarters on his first full day (maybe holding a sink again), fire up his computer, and immediately set about reading all of your DMs, peering in on private accounts’ tweets, and harvesting users’ phone numbers? Probably not, and whether that happens at all depends on several factors, according to Andy Wu, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
Twitter’s management team would first have to be amenable to fulfilling Musk’s requests. If not, he has to replace them. To do that, he’d have to go through the board of directors. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get them to agree to Musk’s demands, though. He reportedly fired several of Twitter’s top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal and Vijaya Gadde, who was the head of legal, public policy, and trust and safety. The new CEO, Bloomberg says, is Musk himself. As for the board, based on the preliminary proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk plans to install his own board immediately.
There are also whatever internal controls Twitter has — including those it’s supposed to have implemented per consent orders with agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — that might get in Musk’s way. Musk would have to work with Twitter employees to get that data, and they might not be willing to help him read someone’s DMs. It’s hard to imagine Musk making such a request and that request not somehow being leaked to the press. And that would certainly be a disaster for a company Musk paid a lot of money for.But even if Musk eventually does get his hands on the DMs of people he doesn’t like or wants to keep tabs on, the article argues that this isn’t the biggest security concern:Twitter users should perhaps be concerned not about their data leaking to Musk but about their data leaking to everyone. Twitter’s track record when it comes to security already isn’t great, and Musk might be laying off employees who are essential to maintaining the protections it has that actually work (Musk has reportedly said he doesn’t plan to lay off that many people or that soon).
Read more from Vox’s Sara Morrison here.
Correction: A previous version of this post implied that Ye’s visibility on Twitter was a new development since Musk’s takeover. In fact, the rapper was never banned from the platform – his account was locked and still visible.Following Musk’s takeover, speculation has begun how Ye, the rapper formally known as Kanye West, would engage with the platform following his suspension.The artist previously had his Twitter account locked last month amid antisemitic comments and outbursts he made, though it is unclear if Musk’s takeover had anything to do with Ye’s account being visible again.Ye’s remarks have cost the artist big, with several fashion and business associated with Ye vowing to never work with him again.Kanye West reportedly no longer a billionaire as companies cut tiesYe was also locked from Instagram, owned by Meta, due to the offensive comments and outbursts he made. The decision prompted Ye to tweet about his supposed friendship with Meta owner Mark Zuckerberg.
Shortly after Musk’s takeover was announced, a bevy of anonymous Twitter profiles celebrated the purchase by espousing slurs and arguing that Twitter’s rules on hate speech did not apply. Musk has repeatedly said he will promote more free speech on Twitter, claiming that the current algorithm deprioritizes certain content with little regard. But Musk has pushed back against fears that the app will be less critical against bigotry and hate under his ownership. From the Washington Post: A wide range of anonymous Twitter accounts celebrated Musk’s takeover and argued it meant the old rules against bigotry no longer applied.
“Elon now controls twitter. Unleash the racial slurs. K—S AND N—–S,” said one account, using slurs for Jews and Black people. “I can freely express how much I hate n—–s … now, thank you elon,” another said.
In a tweeted letter Thursday, Musk had sought to soothe advertisers worried over the moderation changes by saying he did not want it to become a “free-for-all hellscape.”
But the first hours of his purchase have shown how difficult that promise could be. One account, created this month, included a Nazi swastika as its profile picture and retweeted quotes from Musk alongside antisemitic memes. Another tweet, showing a video montage glorifying Nazi Germany with the comment, “I hear that there have been some changes around here,” was liked more than 400 times.Read the full article here (paywall).
Former US president Donald Trump said today he was happy Twitter was in “sane hands” as Elon Musk finalised the $44bn takeover, but did not say whether he would return to his account on the platform that banned him.Trump said he thought his own Truth Social media platform “looks and works better.”“I LOVE TRUTH,” Trump wrote in a post on his platform. Trump was banned from Twitter after the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. Musk has said he would reinstate Trump’s account, but Trump previously said he would not return.
Here’s our full story on reactions from senior politicians to the Twitter takeover.Senior politicians have warned Elon Musk over content moderation on Twitter, with the EU stressing the platform will “fly by our rules” and a UK minister expressing concerns over hate speech under the billionaire’s ownership.The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, wrote on the platform on Friday that “in Europe, the bird will fly by our rules”, in response to Musk’s earlier tweet saying “the bird is freed” in apparent confirmation that he had bought the business. The EU is introducing the digital services act, which includes provisions for removal of illegal content including hate speech.The UK government flagged its own concerns on Friday, as the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey said it would be “concerning” if a relaxation of content moderation led to a proliferation on hate speech on the platform.“I think that would be concerning and it’s important that people have these platforms [and] use them responsibly rather than to promulgate hate speech,” she told Sky News. Coffey added that the online safety bill, a landmark piece of legislation tackling online hate speech, will return to parliament next week. However, it is understood that the bill will remain on pause after the government delayed its passage again this week.One internet safety campaigner said on Friday that the deal could “unravel” Twitter’s work on improving the platform, after reports that Musk has already fired the company’s head of legal policy, trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde.Twitter takeover: fears raised over disinformation and hate speech
Researcher Joan Donovan recently looked at why the super-rich are buying social media sites? From Trump to Kanye and Musk.Tech CEOs have become the most crucial political gatekeepers in modern media history. Not by running for office – a cliche for today’s moneyed elite – but by using social media ownership as a proxy for political influence.It’s a trend years in the making. From the political largess of former Facebook executives like Sheryl Sandberg and Joel Kaplan to the metapolitics of Peter Thiel, tech titans have long adopted an inside/outside playbook for conducting politics by other means.From Trump to Kanye and Musk: why are the super-rich buying social media sites? | Joan Donovan
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