Billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered to buy Twitter again at his original offer of $44 billion.
Musk plans to make “significant improvements to Twitter” if the deal ends up closing.
Here are some of the biggest changes Twitter could face under Musk, including looser moderation.
The world’s richest man has offered to buy Twitter — again.
On Monday night, after a months-long legal battle, Musk reversed course and sent Twitter a letter saying he would buy the social-media company for his original offer of $44 billion. If the deal closes, Twitter will become a privately held company once again.
So, what exactly does Musk intend to do at Twitter?
We have a pretty good idea of his top priorities based on his initial statement announcing the acquisition earlier this year:
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”
Musk, a longtime Twitter user with nearly 108 million followers, has been detailing his feelings about the service for years now. Here’s what we expect to see in changes at Twitter should the deal be approved by regulators, based on his past tweets and comments.
1. Loosening content moderation
Musk has repeatedly referred to Twitter as “the de factor public town square” of the modern era — the digital equivalent of a public forum.
To that end, he’s been critical of Twitter’s decision to permanently ban former President Donald Trump from the site, following the insurrection at the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
“A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech,” Musk tweeted in response to the Christian conservative satire publication The Babylon Bee, after it shared a satirical news article on January 11, 2021 titled, “Evil Fascist Dictator Censored and Voted Out of Office.”
He could even re-instate Trump’s Twitter account, though it’s unclear if the former president would use the account again.
Based on Musk’s tweets, it sounds like he’ll push for looser moderation on Twitter at the very least.
He demonstrated the sentiment when his satellite internet startup, Starlink, refused requests “by some governments (not Ukraine)” to block news broadcasts from Russia.
“We will not do so unless at gunpoint,” he said. “Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.”
2. Algorithm changes
Another point Musk has raised in the past involves Twitter’s role in shaping society.
He polled his followers earlier this year on whether they think Twitter’s algorithm should be “open source” — a term for software that’s distributed freely and able to be manipulated openly by many different contributors.
It may sound technical, but the idea is tied to his feelings on free speech.
“I’m worried about de facto bias in ‘the Twitter algorithm’ having a major effect on public discourse,” Musk said to one follower. “How do we know what’s really happening?”
Patrick Pleul/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
3. Removing spam bots
Some of Musk’s anticipated proposals speak more to his personal use of Twitter than anything else. For example, he’s previously stated he wants to get rid of “crypto spam bots” — spam accounts promoting what appear to be crypto-based scams, which often use Musk’s Twitter likeness.
Musk has called the spam problem on Twitter the “single most annoying problem” with using the service. He’s even publicly pleaded with Twitter to do something about the issue. “How long must this go on?” he asked in February.
In an April 14 interview at TED 2022, Musk cited this issue as the first thing he would change as Twitter’s new owner. “A top priority I would have is eliminating the spam and scam bots, and the bot armies that are on Twitter,” he said. “They make the product much worse.”
4. Adding an edit button
Musk is in favor of the edit button that Twitter users had been requesting for years.
Musk has long supported the ability to edit tweets. Earlier this month, Twitter actually started testing the feature after years of pushing back on the notion.
This week, it rolled out the edit button to Twitter Blue members, who subscribe to its subscription model, in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Twitter said that the feature would be coming to Blue subscribers in the US “soon.”
But Musk would likely be far quicker to implement an edit button. His followers overwhelmingly supported adding the function in a poll he ran in March.
5. Overhauling Twitter Blue and the verification system
Musk tweeted in April about changes he would make to Twitter Blue, the company’s monthly subscription that gives members access to exclusive features for $5 per month (in the US).
Musk said that all Blue members “should get an authentication checkmark,” similar but different to the blue checkmark that “verified” public figures receive.
He also said the price should be lowered to $2 per month, but “paid 12 months up front & account doesn’t get checkmark for 60 days (watch for CC chargebacks) & suspended with no refund if used for scam/spam.”
6. Using Twitter to launch X, his ‘everything app’
Musk tweeted this week that buying Twitter will accelerate the development of X, his apparent “everything app.”
“Twitter probably accelerates X by 3 to 5 years, but I could be wrong,” Musk said, in response to another Twitter user.
He had made the same comment in August at a Tesla shareholder meeting, saying: “It’s a pretty grand vision and of course that could be started from scratch but I think Twitter would accelerate that by three to five years.”
Musk bought the domain name “X.com” in 2017 from PayPal and has been teasing it since. In recent months, as he was battling Twitter in an attempt to get out of his acquisition of the company, Musk has hinted at X being a direct competitor to Twitter.
In its lawsuit against Musk for trying to back away from his offer, Twitter said it had “very real concerns” that Musk was trying to collect internal data in order to build a competitor.
Ben Gilbert contributed to an earlier version of this post.