Elon Musk manages free speech versus ‘hellscape’ at Twitter

Oct 28 (Reuters) – Just hours after Elon Musk ushered in a new era at Twitter Inc, the billionaire owner was flooded with pleas and demands from banned account holders and world leaders.

A flood of requests underscore the challenge facing the CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O), balancing the promise of restoring free speech while preventing the platform from descending into a “hellscape,” as he said in an open Advertisers on Thursday vowed in the letter

Former US President Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter over allegations of inciting violence following the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots, welcomed the takeover but said little about a return to Twitter. “I am very happy that Twitter is now in sensible hands, and will no longer be run by radical leftists and lunatics who truly hate our country.” read more

Dmitry Medvedev, former President of Russia and current Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, tweeted: “Best wishes @elonmusk on overcoming political bias and ideological dictatorship on Twitter. And leave that Starlink in Ukraine business.”

Others asked Musk to reverse the penalty imposed by the social media platform. In response to @catturd2, an anonymous account with 852,000 followers, who is known to be a big supporter of Trump’s election fraud claims, and who said it was a “shadow”, Musk tweeted “more I’ll dig.”

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian state-controlled broadcaster RT, asked Moscow “To remove RT and Sputnik accounts and shadow ban mine too?”

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Pressure is mounting on Musk and Twitter as he prepares to address Twitter employees on Friday after closing the deal.

“Hey @ElonMusk, now that you own Twitter, will you help fight against Trudeau’s online censorship bill C-11?” Canada Proud, the organization working to vote for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tweeted.

“First I heard,” Musk replied in a tweet on Friday.

first day

Several employees who spoke to Reuters on Friday said there had been no communication from management about what happens next.

Musk was expected to address employees on Friday, but employees said they had not received any notice as of late afternoon.

Two sources familiar with the matter said Musk’s team was examining Twitter’s code and asking questions about how aspects of the platform work.

Musk joined the company’s Slack channel as of Friday, according to screenshots seen by Reuters.

Musk also tweeted on Friday that Twitter would create a “content moderation council with widely varied perspectives” and that no major decisions on moderation or account restoration would be made before its convened.

Despite appealing to advertisers on Thursday that it hopes to make Twitter “the most respected advertising platform in the world,” at least one major automaker — GM (GM.N) — said it has temporarily suspended its advertising. and was working to “understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership.”

Employees were also worried about the future of their jobs. Of the 266 Twitter employees who took part in a survey on messaging app Blind, less than 10% still have an expectation of their jobs in three months. Blind allows employees to broadcast complaints anonymously after signing up with a corporate email.

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According to people familiar with the matter, Musk fired Twitter chief executive Parag Agarwal, chief financial officer Ned Sehgal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde. He had accused him of misleading him and Twitter investors about the number of fake accounts on the platform.

Sources said Agarwal and Sehgal were at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters when the deal closed and they were pulled out.

Musk, who also runs rocket company SpaceX, plans to become the interim CEO of Twitter, according to a person familiar with the matter and following an earlier report from Reuters. Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter, said that Musk also plans to impose a permanent ban on users.

Twitter, Musk and officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘Chief Tweet’

Before closing the deal, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters on Wednesday with a big grin and a porcelain sink, later tweeting “let that sink in.” He changed his Twitter profile description to “Chief Tweet”.

European regulators also reiterated previous warnings that under Musk’s leadership, Twitter must still comply with the region’s Digital Services Act, which imposes heavy fines on companies if they do not handle illegal content.

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“In Europe, the bird will fly by our EU regulations,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton tweeted Friday morning.

European Parliament MP and civil rights proponent Patrick Breuer suggested people look for alternatives where privacy is a priority.

“Twitter already knows our personalities dangerously well because of the extensive monitoring of our every click. Now that knowledge will be in Musk’s hands.”

Musk has indicated that he sees Twitter as the foundation to build a “super app” that offers everything from money transfers to shopping and rides.

But Twitter is struggling to engage its most active users who are vital to business. These “heavy tweeters” account for less than 10% of total monthly users, but generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue.

Hargreaves Lansdowne analyst Susannah Streeter said “Musk will face the challenge of generating revenue” noting that controversial opinions he wants to give more free rein are often inappropriate for advertisers.

As news of the deal spread, some Twitter users quickly flagged their desire to walk away.

A user with the account @mustlovedogsxo said, “If Musk does a good job, I’ll be happy to go in a heartbeat, as we all expect him to.”

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Additional reporting by David Shepardson and Katie Paul; Editing by Kenneth Lee, Nick Ziminsky, Deepa Babington and Jacqueline Wong

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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