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Elon Musk,Twitter Acquisition And The Threats Ahead

By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

After long delays and court procedures, Elon Musk closed the $44 billion Twitter acquisition deal last Thursday.

His first action on Day One was to ease top management including the CEO of their positions thus creating what could be likened to a management vacuum and a distance from the status quo with palpable fears of heightened extremism and enthronement of hate speech.

On March 27, 2022, Musk had criticized Twitter and its management for unnecessary censorship saying he would change all that as an apostle of ‘free speech“ when he eventually acquires the global blog.

This began to manifest right from last Thursday, the first day, signaling more threats ahead despite his avowed advocacy of fighting for all and making Twitter an open platform for “right thinking people“ in pursuit of democratic ethos.

The Tesla boss had threatened critical bloggers and even his own staff if and when they said things that were not in tandem with his worldview.

The days ahead therefore portend dangers and freedom of speech on Twitter for the global community and those for whom Twitter was the only verifiable platform for communicating their messages.

For a man known as an advocate of free speech but with a track record of silencing critics with threats of lawsuits and firing employees who disagree with him,a more regulated and or closed Twitter is underway and the weeks ahead will determine all that.

It may be good bye to an open and people friendly Twitter.

Before the acquisition, Musk’s professional reputation for silencing critics with retaliation and threats of lawsuits, was legendary.

He criticized Twitter’s content moderation policies and partisan censorship on the platform, including the decision to ban former President Donald Trump and said in May this year that he would reverse all that.

Advocacy groups have reasoned for months that Musk’s purchase of the platform would encroach heavily on data privacy, including a rise in harassment, extremism, and hyperpartisanship, and have renewed their calls following last week’s completion of the deal.

Musk claimed he wanted to buy Twitter to ‘help humanity,’ but strangely he has a record of posting and defending harmful anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) content as well as content that harms other marginalized communities, according to a statement by the non-profit Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

“GLAAD remains deeply concerned about the safety of LGBTQ people on Twitter and we join other organizations that are now questioning Twitter’s future policies and actions against extremist content.” the statement added.

In what appeared as response to the growing fears about the Twitter acquisition, Musk twitted last Thursday to douse tension, saying most of the speculation surrounding his motivation to buy Twitter has been wrong and that the platform “obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.”

Instead, he said, “Twitter must follow the laws of the land” and “be warm and welcoming to all.” He was however silent on how these goals would be accomplished.

Even though Musk is yet to announce any content moderation policy but analysts fear the new Twitter may become a platform for radicalized content.

“Twitter is now on a glide path to becoming a supercharged engine of radicalization,” Angelo Carusone, President of Media Matters for America said in a statement, adding “Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter will become a fever swamp of dangerous conspiracy theories, partisan chicanery, and operationalized harassment.”

Some of the fears ahead are reports of workers layoffs which will see nearly half of Twitter’s 7,500 shown the exit gate with payment of stock grants due for November 1, 2022 (yesterday) but as at the time of this report, it was not clear if the threats of layoffs have been executed.

Billionaire Musk, who also leads the electric carmaker Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX, had explained in general, early in the acquisition talks, that he would make Twitter a private entity by reducing its work force, reignite its content moderation rules and create new revenue streams for the company to ride on.

Part of the income streams being proposed by Musk is increment of monthly subscription and deadline to be met by workers.

Meet up deadlines on introducing paid up verification on Twitter or pack up and leave, Musk was quoted to have threatened Twitter workers at the weekend.

Specifically, Twitter is currently planning to charge $19.99 for the new Twitter Blue subscription. Under the current plan, verified users would have 90 days to subscribe or lose their blue checkmark. Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7 to launch the feature or they will be fired.

He twitted on Sunday too that “the whole verification process is being revamped right now.“ All of these suggest the directions of the new Twitter.

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