The world’s richest troll bought the tenth largest social media platform. After a months-long legal battle against Twitter, Elon Musk officially became Twitter’s owner. Since he officially took over Twitter, Musk has unleashed a dizzying array of headlines on an unassuming public as he displays a lack of understanding that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.
In the last two weeks, Musk has managed to get into legal trouble for laying off almost half the company without giving 60 days notice, lose advertiser revenue, and retweet misinformation. He also went into business with Saudi Prince Alwaleed, who contributed $1.9 billion to Twitter and is now the second largest shareholder in the company.
If the Saudi connection does not make you want to quit Twitter, the findings from the Joetta Di Bella and Fred C. Sautter III Center for Strategic Communication at Montclair State University might. Researchers at the center used the Tweetbinder analytics program to study hate speech on the platform before and immediately after Elon Musk’s acquisition. From October 22 to October 28, Montclair State University’s researchers found that Tweets using slurs related to race, religion, ethnicity, and orientation never exceeded 84 times per hour. However, the use of hate speech ballooned to 398 uses an hour between midnight and noon on October 28, the day after Musk took over the company.
Unfortunately, Twitter’s hate speech problem is unlikely to get better. Twitter’s content moderation team and its communication team had the majority of its employees laid off. Musk is also doubling down on his stance as a “free speech absolutist” by retweeting misinformation about the attack on Paul Pelosi and allowing anyone with 8 dollars to purchase a blue verification checkmark, rendering the authentication tool useless. In most organizations, there would be a Board of Directors attempting to muzzle an out of control CEO, but Twitter no longer has one because Musk dissolved it.
Our last hope for some semblance of decorum on Twitter comes from big business. While Musk cries about advertisers “ruining free speech in America,” General Mills, GM, Audi, and brands managed by advertising firm IPG are pausing advertising on the platform.
By the time this article is published, there will most likely be another Elon Musk Twitter-related controversy surrounding the planned Vine reboot, a potential move to Austin, or some yet to develop disaster created by Musk’s hubris.