Elon Musk became Twitter’s owner on Thursday, firing top executives and providing little clarity over how he will achieve the lofty ambitions he has outlined for the influential social media platform.
“The bird is freed,” he tweeted, referencing Twitter’s bird logo in an apparent nod to his desire to see the company have fewer limits on content that can be posted.
The CEO of electric car maker Tesla has, however, also said he wants to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber for hate and division.
Other goals include wanting to “defeat” spam bots on Twitter and make the algorithms that determine how content is presented to its users publicly available.
Yet Musk has not offered details on how he will achieve all this and who will run the company. He has said he plans to cut jobs, leaving Twitter’s approximately 7 500 employees fretting about their future. He also said on Thursday he did not buy Twitter to make more money but “to try to help humanity, whom I love”.
Musk terminated Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde, according to people familiar with the matter. He had accused them of misleading him and Twitter investors over the number of fake accounts on the social media platform.
Agrawal and Segal were in Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters when the deal closed and were escorted out, the sources added. Twitter, Musk and the executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Before closing the $44-billion acquisition, and never afraid to indulge in theatrics, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters on Wednesday with a big grin and carrying a porcelain sink, subsequently tweeting “let that sink in”. He changed his description in his Twitter profile to “Chief Twit”.
He also tried to calm fears among employees that major layoffs are coming and assured advertisers that his past criticism of Twitter’s content moderation rules would not harm its appeal.
“Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” Musk said in an open letter to advertisers on Thursday.
In an indication of challenges to be addressed, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who was banned from Twitter last year for violating its rules on hateful conduct and abusive behaviour, applauded Musk’s takeover on Instagram and shared requests from fans to have her account restored.
Musk also said in May he would reverse the ban on Donald Trump, who was removed after the attack on the US Capitol, although the former US president has said he won’t return to the platform. He has instead launched his own social media app, Truth Social.
Musk has also indicated he sees Twitter as a foundation for creating a “super app” that offers everything from money transfers to shopping and ride-hailing. — Sheila Dang and Greg Roumeliotis, with Tanvi Mehta, (c) 2022 Reuters