Technology

His cheeky tweets, trolls and Trump



For most market watchers or even casual observers of headlines over the last several years, the last 24 hours have been big: Elon Musk, the celebrated space entrepreneur, prolific and provocative Tweeter and the world’s richest man, has finally closed his $44 billion purchase of Twitter.

Elon Musk – who is also Tesla’s CEO – confirmed the deal in less than 280 characters. He now holds one of the world’s most powerful megaphones.

Here’s what you – and Musk’s 110 million followers – need to know about his acquisition of the social media platform and his ownership of what he calls a “digital town square.”

That tweet was quickly met with a reply from European Union Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton to Musk, who is a regular critic of international regulators. 

Some far-right accounts see boost in followers, firm finds

As Elon Musk closed the deal to take over Twitter, some influential conservative figures saw spikes in new followers, according to data from digital investigations company Memetica.

Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, gained more than 18,000 new followers in the last 24 hours. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), meanwhile, gained 18,679 new followers during the same period. And more than 3,700 accounts started following conservative media personality Candace Owens.

Thousands of the accounts that have followed the far-right figures were new to Twitter, created shortly before the deal closed, according to Memetica. 

Meanwhile, as reported by the New York Times, data from social media analytics firm Social Blade showed that accounts for progressive politicians and celebrities including former President Barack Obama, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow were losing followers Friday.

– Amanda Pérez Pintado

Antisemitism spreads on Twitter after Musk takeover, ADL says

The ADL Center on Extremism said it identified a coordinated effort to spread antisemitic content on Twitter following Musk’s takeover. 

In the course of 24 hours, the ADL said more than 1,200 tweets and retweets propagated antisemitic memes.

The effort began Thursday via an anonymous post on 4chan, which gave instructions on how to spread the content. The post was then shared on several extremist Telegram channels, according to the ADL.

“This strategic spread of hateful content on @Twitter warrants concern for how extremists view potential changes to Twitter’s content rules,” the organization tweeted. “The campaign also follows weeks of #antisemitic discourse being spread by public figures.”

– Jessica Guynn

Musk’s many jobs: How many companies does he run now?

With the takeover of Twitter, Musk now runs five companies in multiple industries: electric vehicle maker Tesla, rocket and satellite company SpaceX, tunneling company The Boring Company and neuroscience startup Neuralink.

Investors worry that the competing demands on his time are stretching Musk too thin, particularly at a time when Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX all face challenges. 

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Tesla has acknowledged in regulatory filings that its dependence on Musk is a risk factor.

“Although Mr. Musk spends significant time with Tesla and is highly active in our management, he does not devote his full time and attention to Tesla,” the company said. 

But Musk’s energizer-bunny pace has not appeared to put a damper on Tesla, the world’s most valuable car company, and SpaceX, one of the U.S.’s most valuable startups.

Musk acknowledges that the intense workload gets to him.

“It would be nice to have a bit more free time on my hands, as opposed to just working day and night from when I wake up till when I go to sleep seven days a week. It’s pretty intense,” he said last year during a Tesla analyst briefing.

– Jessica Guynn

How did Elon Musk pay for Twitter?

Musk in April pledged $46.5 billion to finance the acquisition’s $44 billion price tag plus closing costs.

The billionaire is using a combination of cash, bank loans and investment funds to finance the deal.

Musk, who already owned nearly 10% of Twitter in market shares, is contributing more than $27 billion in cash for the deal after selling off more than $15 billion worth of Tesla shares earlier this year.

Another $13 billion is backed by bank loans. Lenders include Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Mizuho, Morgan Stanley, MUFG and Societe Generale. 

Then there’s $5.2 billion from equity investors:

  • $25 million from active investment firm A.M. Management & Consulting
  • $400 million from AH Capital Management, a VC firm founded by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz
  • $360 million from SpaceX and Airbnb investor Aliya Capital Partners LLC  
  • $100 million from investment adviser BAMCO 
  • $500 million from cryptocurrency exchange Binance
  • $250 million from Brookfield, an alternative investment management company
  • $100 million from SpaceX and Tesla investor DFJ Growth IV Partners
  • $316 million from investment advisor Fidelity Management & Research Company 
  • $5 million from Honeycomb Asset Management, a private investment firm led by  David Fiszel 
  • $30 million from wealth management company Key Wealth Advisors
  • $1 billion from Lawrence J. Ellison Revocable Trust, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison’s trust
  • $25 million from  consumer investment company Litani Ventures
  • $375 million from Qatar Holding, a global investment house controlled by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund  
  • $800 million from the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital Fund, which also invested in The Boring Company  
  • $150 million from investment banking firm Strauss Capital 
  • $8.5 million from Tresser Blvd 402  
  • $700 million from VyCapital, a global technology investment firm that invested in The Boring Company
  • $100 million from investment firm Witkoff Capital

There were also nearly 35 million shares valued at $1.89 billion transferred from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

Musk says Twitter is forming content moderation council 

Musk tweeted Friday that he’ll be “digging in” on lifting shadow bans and rolling back restrictions on users. He later tweeted that Twitter would form a content moderation council “with widely diverse viewpoints.”

“No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” Musk said. 

Twitter already has a council that advises on content moderation. It was not clear what would become of it.

Facebook’s Oversight Board offered to ” discuss Twitter’s plans in more detail with the company.”

“Independent oversight of content moderation has a vital role to play in building trust in platforms and ensuring users are treated fairly,” the board said in a statement. This is a model we have been proving since 2020.”

– Jessica Guynn

Is Musk laying off Twitter employees? 

Right after the deal closed Thursday, several executives including the CEO were fired. 

On Friday, people who identified themselves as employees were seen leaving the company’s San Francisco headquarters carrying boxes, according to CNBC.

But some Twitter employees speculated on company Slack channels that the departures were a hoax, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

– Jessica Guynn

Not sure if you want to stay on Twitter or what to keep from your account?

Many of Twitter’s estimated 250 million or so active users – out of its about 400 million registered users – are now wondering what could happen to their personal data on a platform owned by Musk.

While some have committed to deleting their profiles entirely, others are waiting on the sidelines to see how the company might use their highly personal information or are leaning in further to up their presence now that content moderation is changing.

Not sure which one is right for you? Check out our tutorials on how to stay safe online from harassment, download your Twitter content or leave the site altogether.

Things getting nasty on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? How to shut down the hate, harassment

How to delete Twitter account? Step-by-step guide to permanently remove your account.

– Riley Gutiérrez McDermid

How to delete Twitter data

Twitter handles some 500 million to 700 million tweets a day, which adds up to roughly 12 terabytes of data every 24 hours.

That’s a huge risk if that data falls into the wrong hands, Arthur Herman, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, recently wrote in Forbes – and Twitter had big data breaches before all of that information became Musk’s.

In July, a breach exposed the email address and phone number of 5.4 million Twitter profiles. At that time, Twitter recommended anyone trying to stay anonymous should not link a publicly known phone number or email to their Twitter account.

Then in August, whistleblower Peiter Zatko exposed what he said was lax security at Twitter, which could make the company’s data vulnerable to foreign infiltration as well as improper use and storage of user data.  

Now all that data – including your direct messages because they are not end-to-end encrypted – belongs to Elon Musk.  

The data Twitter collects and saves includes your tweets, likes, direct messages, ad clicks, followers and those you’re following. If you’ve granted access, it can also collect information from your phone’s contact list. 

If you’re concerned about your data privacy or considering leaving Twitter, here are a few things you can do: 

To delete your account go to Settings → Your Account → Deactivate Your Account. This will not delete your data immediately because Twitter holds onto your data for at least 30 days in case you change your mind.  

Before deleting, you may want to try a few other solutions: 

Back up your tweets by going to Settings → Your Account → Download an Archive of Your Data. 

You can delete all your old tweets, but not through Twitter itself. Use a third-party app like Tweetdelete.net. It can also delete all your old likes. Twitter says deleted tweets are not publicly available but it’s unclear how long they’re saved on the company’s servers. 

If you’ve used Twitter DMs for private conversations you want to remove, you can delete an individual message from your account, but it will still exist for the other people in the conversation. 

Lock down your account completely so only your followers can see them:

Do this by going to Settings → Privacy and Safety → Audience and Tagging, then select Protect Your Tweets. Or you can stay public but protect your account from harassment by muting and blocking certain types of profiles.

Go to Settings → Privacy and Safety → Mute and Block → Muted Notifications and you can choose to mute, for example, new accounts which could be spam or bots.  

– Katie Wedell

Trump says Twitter now in ‘sane hands’

Former president Donald Trump also weighed in on the Twitter deal Friday, saying in a post on his own social media platform, Truth Social, that he considers Musk’s takeover to have placed the platform in “sane hands.”

– Riley Gutiérrez McDermid

Musk will be ‘digging in’ on shadow bans as hate speech, slurs appear 

Reports began surfacing early Friday that hate speech and racial epithets are flying on Twitter. Holocaust deniers were also reported on the platform.

Twitter users were quick to note Friday that they were beginning to see changes in the way the platform worked and how it was removing bans on users previously limited on the site, sometimes as a direct result of tweeting Musk.

In answer to that, Musk tweeted Friday that he’ll be “digging in” more today on lifting shadow bans and rolling back restrictions on users.

Far-right commentators, including well-known YouTuber Tim Pool, also weighed in about changes. 

Users who had either had their content moderated or knew people who had encountered Twitter bans or shadow bans also tweeted Musk directly asking to have those lifted and listed the names of people they felt should be brought back to the platform.

– Riley Gutiérrez McDermid

When did Elon close his deal for Twitter?

Multiple news outlets reported late Thursday that, after months of legal wrangling and public acrimony, Musk had closed the deal and fired top executives including the company’s CEO Parag Agrawal.

Twitter chairman Bret Taylor removed that title from his Twitter bio. 

A deal is done? Elon Musk takes control of Twitter, sources say

– Riley Gutiérrez McDermid

Musk may need to pay as much as $200 million to fired executives

Agrawal; Ned Segal, the chief financial officer; and Vijaya Gadde, the top legal and policy executive, all had strict contractual agreements in place for what might happen in the event of a takeover.

MarketWatch reports that the three own about $65 million worth of Twitter stock and get another $119.6 million in stock if they are terminated.

“In total, Gadde is set to walk away from Twitter with the biggest haul: Nearly $74 million. Agrawal and Segal aren’t far behind her, though, at roughly $65 million and $66 million, respectively,” MarketWatch said.

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– Riley Gutiérrez McDermid

Will Elon Musk fire more Twitter workers?

Twitter’s previous management already planned to slash payroll by about $800 million and make deep cuts to infrastructure including data centers by the end of 2023. 

Reports of more austere measures under Musk – including laying off 75% of the company’s 7,500 workers – circulated before the deal closed. Musk told workers at Twitter’s headquarters on Wednesday “that he doesn’t plan to cut 75 percent of the staff when he takes over the company, according to people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg wrote.

Twitter employees fret ahead of deal deadline: Musk reportedly wants 75% cut to Twitter workforce

— Jessica Guynn

What did Elon Musk buy Twitter for?

Musk wound up paying his original bid price: $54.20 a share, or roughly $44 billion. 

At the time of his April offer, the amount represented a 33% premium to Twitter’s stock price. But the company has since been caught up in a wider drop in tech stock prices, record-high inflation squeezing investors and increasing fears of a recession.

Musk has been vocal about overpaying about the purchase, although Twitter had closed at $53.70 on Thursday, a marked upswing from its lowest point of $32.65 in July.

“Although obviously myself and other investors are overpaying for Twitter right now,” Musk recently said, “the long-term potential for Twitter is an order of magnitude higher than its current value.”

– Riley Gutiérrez McDermid

More: Elon Musk says Twitter can’t become ‘a free-for-all hellscape,’ should be ‘warm and welcoming’

Why does Elon Musk want Twitter?

The deal gives the Tesla billionaire control of one of the world’s most powerful megaphones. 

It also gives Musk access to the data of nearly 400 million users and the ability to bring back people and organizations previously banned or sidelined by Twitter, including former President Donald Trump

Who will run Twitter now?

For now, it appears Musk is helming Twitter.

On Wednesday he changed his Twitter bio to “Chief Twit” shortly before walking into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters carrying a porcelain sink, resurrecting a meme that has been internet lore for years. “Let that sink in,” he tweeted.

– Jessica Guynn

Twitter deal: Why ‘Chief Twit’ Elon Musk brought along a sink on his visit to Twitter headquarters

Is Donald Trump coming back to Twitter?

Now that Elon Musk is running Twitter, the Tesla billionaire is likely to reverse a permanent ban against Trump for inciting violence during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Musk has indicated he would allow Trump back on the social media platform where the former president had more than 88 million followers. 

“Would be great to unwind permanent bans, except for spam accounts and those that explicitly advocate violence,” Musk texted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal in April, according to court filings. 

At a conference in May, Musk said: “I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump, I think that was a mistake.” 

– Jessica Guynn

Will Trump return? Is Donald Trump coming back to Twitter now that Elon Musk bought the company?

Will Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter mean more hate, extremism online?

When Elon Musk first agreed to buy Twitter in April, he said the social media site has the potential to become “the platform for free speech around the globe” and he would unlock it.  

Musk, who closed the $44 billion deal after a months-long legal fight, has described himself as a “free speech absolutist” and expressed concern over the way Twitter moderates its users.  

Now that Musk owns Twitter, will he make good on his promise to loosen content moderation rules in the name of “free speech?” 

Musk said Thursday he doesn’t want the site to become “a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences” in a message to advertisers, who analysts have said may be scared off by the Tesla CEO’s stance on free speech. 

Extremists cheer Musk Twitter deal: Oath Keepers trial heats up & more LGBTQ harassment

“In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences,” Musk said in a note posted on Twitter.  

Critics have expressed concern that Musk would allow harmful or extremist speech on the site and experts have warned that loosening content moderation could cause real-world harm. 

Conservatives, meanwhile, have celebrated Musk’s Twitter takeover, as many accuse social media platforms of routinely censoring their voices, feelings further fueled earlier this year after former President Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter.

Musk has indicated he would let Trump, who was banned for inciting violence during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, back on the site. 

– Amanda Pérez Pintado

Things getting nasty on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? How to shut down the hate, harassment

How will advertisers respond to a Twitter with less moderation?

Elon Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has been advocating for less content moderation on Twitter since his plans to take over the company were first announced in April. 

“We want to have the perception and the reality that speech is as free as possible,” Musk said in April at the TED2022 conference. “Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? And if that is the case, then we have free speech.”

The idea seems to harken back to the early days of Twitter; former CEO Dick Costolo called the site the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party” in the early 2010s. 

Since then, Twitter has adopted stricter policies to combat disinformation, misinformation and hate speech. The platform’s rules prohibit targeted harassment, COVID-19 misinformation and election manipulation.  

A different Twitter Elon Musk says Twitter can’t become ‘a free-for-all hellscape,’ should be ‘warm and welcoming’

Musk’s talk about softening some of Twitter’s rules to any speech has raised red flags for advertisers.

Shortly after the Wall Street Journal released a report about Madison Avenue’s concerns, Musk issued a statement on Twitter saying the social media platform “obviously cannot become a free-for-all-hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.”

Musk’s tweet was addressed to advertisers, the company’s primary source of revenue.

“Social networks are trying to do a better job removing hateful content, content that is antisemitic, content that’s blatantly misinformation,” said Ari Lightman, professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University. “That’s something that advertisers worry about.”

– Bailey Schulz



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