Twitter users react to Elon Musk’s takeover
Ali Fernand – Features Editor
Elon Musk has begun his Twitter takeover, claiming that his new ownership of the platform will be all about “free speech.” However, students at the university are skeptical of this statement.
“A lot of people thought you could just say whatever you want, because Elon made it seem that way,” psychology major Thomas Robertson, a junior, said.
After months of negotiations beginning in April, Musk became the owner of Twitter on Oct. 27, 2022. When this deal was finalized, he began to tweet statements vowing to make Twitter a platform that is open for all political points of view to speak their point of view.
In the name of “free speech” Musk has reinstated account of controversial figures such as President Donald Trump and Andrew Tate, a popular podcaster.
“A lot of the people I follow are queer and black, so there’s discomfort of what they can say,” social work major Mellody Massaquoi, a junior, said.
Musk has stated that his policies will benefit all political ideologies. However, many of the accounts he has reinstated are right-wingers who were banned for offenses of Twitter’s terms of service.
“Originally it was an attempt to open up free dialogue, but it led to people spouting hateful dialogue,” political science and psychology major Brendan Estacio, a junior, said.
Jelani Cobb, a previous Twitter employee who left under Elon Musk, wrote an opinion piece for the New Yorker. In that article, he states that he felt that Musk’s new control of Twitter is simply a gimmick to “troll” the masses.
Cobb is not the only Twitter employee that is no longer working for the company. According to the New York Times, about half of Twitter’s staff had been laid off. Musk has claimed that this is so he can hire new employees that will help him create his vision for Twitter.
“He’s firing people for things like tweeting about having a bad day,” English and secondary education major Ava Krajewski, a junior, said.
Musk’s vision for Twitter – monetization, moderation, free speech – involves a lot of changes to the platform. He has said he needs employees who will be dedicated to his new approaches.
One of the new features that Musk introduced is “Twitter Blue.” This
is a feature is a subscription service which costs $8 a month. According to Twitter’s help page, users who subscribe to Twitter Blue will receive a blue checkmark next to their name along with early access to new features such as editing an already posted tweet.
“Everyone always wants to be verified, everyone wants that blue checkmark showing they’re the real deal,” Estacio said.
In the past, the blue checkmark has been used as a marker for those who are public figures. The process previously required public figures to apply for verification, which was then approved or denied by Twitter. Musk has shown disdain for this method of verification, calling it a “lords and peasants” system on his Twitter.
Since Twitter Blue has been instated, there has been a rise in parody accounts. These accounts impersonate popular celebrities and businesses. The blue checkmark feature leads a lot of these accounts to appear as legitimate, spreading misinformation.
“A lot of the memes and pop culture comes from those sorts of accounts,” Krajewski said.
Parody accounts have always existed on Twitter. However, it was much easier to spot these accounts because they lacked a verification sign. With the checkmark, users will have a harder time determining if a celebrity or business is tweeting.
“What if it was Beyonce saying the most racist and ignorant things and everyone believes it,” Massaquoi said.
Many of these accounts have been extremely believable. One of the most famous cases of a parody account was impersonating pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. The parody account tweeted that they would be lowering the price of insulin. This led to the actual company needing to release a statement clarifying the misinformation of the popular tweet.
It did not stop there for Eli Lilly. After their clarification, their stock value dramatically dropped because of the backlash they received.
“It’s become messy, I see the good intent,” Estacio said. “Not his best idea because legitimate businesses have been destroyed.”
Many of the students said that they would not like to leave Twitter. Asked what their last straw would be, many of them said that they would only leave if the site itself failed.
“I just want the old Twitter back,” Krajewski said.