Elon Musk’s chaotic acquisition of Twitter has the community struggling to understand his goals during his first few days as the platform’s sole director.
Musk offered to acquire Twitter for $44 billion but tried to walk back claiming that the platform wasn’t honest about the number of bots and fake accounts. The case was taken to court, and Musk followed through with the deal.
Prior to the acquisition, he had already made somewhat clear what his intentions were for the platform, though in broad terms. He championed the “free speech” narrative, claiming that “For Twitter to deserve public trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally”. (Source: Twitter)
After the acquisition, he even joked saying that “comedy is now legal on Twitter”. (Source: Twitter)
But the reality check has been brutal.
Firstly, Musk took to the platform to spitball some new plans, which involved retiring the current “verified user” system (used to confirm that someone is who they say they are) and instead making it so the only way to stay verified is to subscribe to Twitter Blue for $20 a month. Essentially, the verification would become meaningless and those that did not subscribe would lose their blue checkmark – which was crucial for important public figures, journalists, celebrities, and more.
He quickly settled on lowering the monthly price to $8, but it didn’t solve the issue created by the new system. It didn’t help that the other benefits described by him for Twitter Blue were not that appealing, such as priority in replies and threads for subscribed users and being shown half the ads.
In protest, many users started changing their handles to some variation of “Elon Musk”, adopting his profile picture, and tweeting sarcastic jokes impersonating him.
Notably, comedian Sarah Silverman changed her name and profile picture to impersonate Musk and tweeted: “I am a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast every day” (Source: Twitter)
Kathy Griffin also pulled a similar stunt and both she and Silverman have been temporarily suspended already.
In fact, many users that participated in the gag have had their accounts suspended since then. Musk was quick to clarify that “going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying “parody” will be permanently suspended” (Source: Twitter)
He goes on:
“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.
This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up for Twitter Blue.
Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark”
It’s become very apparent that Musk isn’t happy with being made fun of and despite all his claims about “free speech” and “comedy now being allowed”, he can’t seem to take jokes very well.
Another example is the comedy news outlet The Onion, which had a field day with Musk’s latest antics. Some of their recent headlines included bits like “Twitter Adds ‘Context’ Label To Clarify When Tweets Make Elon Musk Sad.”
Musk was supportive of The Onion’s humor until last year when he was featured in an article going over the richest person from every state on how they got their fortune. Page 44 simply states “Musk: Apartheid.” He tweeted back at the time seemingly offended.
Now, after the latest string of articles, users have noticed that Tesla’s Twitter account is no longer following The Onion. (Source: Twitter) Could be a coincidence since apparently, Tesla’s account has unfollowed many others as well, but given the context, it lines up with Musk’s public pettiness.
Lastly, users have noticed that if you’re already verified you cannot change your profile picture and current name, as the platform will accuse an “error”. Forbes writer Paul Tassi noticed that he couldn’t even add his middle name initial. (Source: Twitter) Clearly, a last-minute measure to prevent impersonators from continuing with the joke.
If there was any ounce of potential with this acquisition, Musk has done everything in his power to destroy the community's perception of him and his newly acquired platform.
Bottomline, Musk was a defender of “free speech” up until the second he was the butt of a joke.