What’s Elon Musk doing with Twitter? | Hires, Fires and Free Speech

Elon Musk has taken over Twitter in a much publicised $44 billion deal. In his first day in charge, it seems he's already dismissed the company's executive board, and the big changes might still only be getting started.

Elon Musk 44 billion

Who’s been fired? 

Let’s start with Parag Agrawal, who has been relieved of his role as CEO. It is believed that Musk himself will take over in his place, adding Twitter to Tesla and SpaceX as companies he presently heads. Musk and Agrawal had sparred before the deal went through, and despite only ten months in the job, Agrawal is out as Twitter’s CEO.

Also gone is CFO, Ned Segal. Segal has been in his role much longer than Agrawal, with his tenure in charge of the social media platform’s finances dating back to 2017, but it’s not been enough to save him. 

Bret Taylor had served as Twitter’s chairman for a year, since last November, but has updated his LinkedIn profile, revealing he is no longer in his role.

Perhaps most tellingly, however, is the decision to fire Vijaya Gadde – Twitter’s leading law and policy executive. Gadde has headed the site’s response to harmful speech and misinformation, and it was reportedly Gadde who was the key decision-maker in the permanent ban of former US president, Donald Trump.

It’s not yet clear if Musk is done putting heads on the chopping block, or who he will bring in to replace them.

What’s going to change? 

The idea of the enigmatic Musk having control of Twitter may still only be sinking in to some, but bigger changes may be just around the corner. The largest challenge will be how Musk handles the social media site’s interpretation of ‘free speech’. 

Musk has styled himself as a ‘free speech absolutist’, and been openly critical of Twitter’s previous moderation policies, saying he would reverse bans on suspended users. This could include Donald Trump, who was banned for his tweets surrounding the 2021 US Capitol riot. A return of Trump to the platform would not just be worldwide news, but could have a major influence on the 2024 presidential election.

Musk did, however, caution that “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape”.

Advertising and marketing seem to be another area where Musk hopes to drive change on the site. “Fundamentally,” he tweeted yesterday, “Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world.” Curating adverts to individual users seems to be Musk’s biggest focus in making that happen. 

“Low relevancy ads are spam, high relevant ads are actually content!” he wrote.

Those changes are somewhat imaginable. The most transformative and ambitious change would be altering the very purpose of Twitter, expanding on its present use, and becoming a ‘super app’. Earlier this month, Musk tweeted: “Twitter is an accelerant to fulfilling the original X.com vision.”

‘X’ is Musk’s idea for an app that does everything. 

China’s massively successful WeChat app is the closest thing at the moment to a super app. Messaging, social media, payments and food orders can all be done on WeChat.

Why has Elon Musk bought Twitter? 

Musk seeked to clarify this yesterday. His reason, if you ask him, is to “help humanity”. 

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“The reason I acquired Twitter,” he wrote, “is because it is important to the future of civilisation to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.”

He warned of the danger of polarising political groups only growing further apart, accusing ‘traditional media’ of catering to this polarisation in order to generate clicks.

“I didn’t do it to make more money. I did it to try to help humanity, whom I love,” he tweeted.

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