Elon Musk has a seat on Twitter’s board of directors, right after revealing himself as the largest shareholder in the social media company.
The announcement instantly sparked rumors of change, as Twitter users speculated on how the world’s wealthiest man might influence the platform.
Musk has been questioning Twitter’s moderation policies for weeks, and at one point, even claimed to be considering starting his own social media platform to rival Twitter (this strategy didn’t work out for Donald Trump, who doesn’t even use his own platform, Truth Social).
Musk seems openly determined to make changes, under the guise of democracy. On March 25, 11 days after becoming Twitter’s largest shareholder, Musk tweeted a poll, asking his followers, “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” Musk added in a follow-up tweet: “The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”
After revealing his new position on the board of directors, Musk polled his followers again, asking if Twitter should add an edit button, intentionally including spelling errors to underline his point – this time, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal noted that the poll would have important consequences. With the majority of Musk’s Twitter followers being made up of simpering Tesla fans, the results of these polls might be more than a little skewed.
A Twitter edit button has long been the subject of debate for Twitter users, as the potential for bad-faith trolling that an edit button would invite might be too much for the chaotic platform, as users would be likely to be able to edit the meaning of tweets after they have gone viral.
An edit button, however, could be just the beginning, as Musk’s ascension to the board has many Twitter users concerned that the changes the billionaire has planned could be detrimental to the quality of conversation on the site (which, frankly, has never been great).
While Musk identifies as a “free-speech absolutist,” the billionaire is notoriously thin-skinned, famously slandering a cave explorer as “pedo guy” on Twitter, threatening critics with legal action, and reportedly firing employees who disagree with him. On Twitter, Musk has angrily responded to The Onion, after the satirical news site mocked him (amusingly, The Onion has since doubled down).
For Musk’s ever-impressed fanbase, however, the news was seen as uplifting; Musk’s new position even inspired fans of former President Donald Trump, who instantly began campaigning for Trump to return to the platform, which he was famously banned from after tweeting about the January 6th riot.
Other users called for the return of The Babylon Bee, the satirical news site that was suspended from Twitter in March, after misgendering Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine, remaining offline after refusing to remove the offending tweet.
The Babylon Bee jokes about gender and diversity from a socially conservative perspective, and often portrays Musk in an overwhelmingly positive light. Hence, Musk has voiced his enthusiastic approval for the site, and seems to miss its presence on Twitter.
Babylon Bee CEO, Seth Dillon, claims that Musk contacted him before his big purchase, wanting to know if the satirical site had really been banned. On Twitter, Dillon wrote:
“Musk reached out to us before he polled his followers about Twitter’s commitment to free speech. He wanted to confirm that we had, in fact, been suspended. He even mused on that call that he might need to buy Twitter. Now he’s the largest shareholder and has a seat on the board.”
It remains to be seen if Musk will prove as consequential as Twitter users believe, or if his new role will amount to just another publicity stunt from the notorious internet troll.