Elon Musk bought Twitter. Here's what he says he'll do next Before Twitter accepted Musk's $44 billion offer, he has floated numerous ideas for changing the social network. Not all of those proposals have been welcomed by experts.

Elon Musk bought Twitter. Here's what he says he'll do next

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1094671225/1094766151" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Elon Musk said he wants to, quote, "unlock Twitter's potential," and he's reached a deal to buy the social network for $44 billion while saying he'll take the company private. The Tesla CEO is the richest man in the world, and he's repeatedly tweeted to his millions of followers what he plans to change at the company. NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn joined us to offer some insights into why.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: It's a coveted piece of internet real estate, so it's a status boost to own it, and Musk thinks he can make it better. Now, Musk is already CEO of the world's most valuable car company, Tesla, and, you know, he runs a very successful rocket ship company, SpaceX. But in his spare time, he likes to play on Twitter, sending out jokes and memes and promotional stuff to his more than 80 million followers. So he's a power user of Twitter, right? But, you know, as a business, Twitter has been struggling for a while. So Musk says he can make it a better business. And if shareholders and regulators approve, you know, he's going to have a real shot at it. So we'll see what happens there. In his statement announcing the purchase of Twitter, Musk described it as being a digital town square that he thinks should have fewer rules. In the same statement, Musk said that free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy.

FADEL: And a lot of people have expressed concern about what that could mean - the implication, of course, being that Twitter right now is not a welcome place for free speech. But is that actually true?

ALLYN: Yeah, I think it's fair to say that Musk is exaggerating quite a bit. There are rules on Twitter, right? You can't harass people. You can't bully. You can't incite violence. You can't spread misinformation about things like COVID-19. But for the most part, you know, a lot of edgy and toxic and offensive material is allowed on Twitter, but apparently not enough for Musk. So he wants to radically open the floodgates to all sorts of content on Twitter. And he hasn't specifically spelled out what he means, but he has said, you know, tweets that are sort of in the gray zone of Twitter's rules, as long as it's not illegal, he says those tweets should be allowed on Twitter.

FADEL: So it sounds like it could be possible that things like hate speech would be allowed on Twitter under Elon Musk's vision of unfettered free speech. What else does he say he's going to do?

ALLYN: Yeah, he wants to open-source Twitter's algorithm - that's the software code that determines what goes viral - so, you know, anyone can look at it. OK, that's one thing. Another proposal he's floated is to let people edit their tweets after they're sent, which is pretty controversial. You know, on the one hand, you can clean up typos after a tweet is sent. I know, personally, that would be a relief to me.


FADEL: I'm full of typos all the time.

ALLYN: Exactly. But on the other hand, you could imagine people going back and editing tweets to cover up, say, you know, harassing someone to make it look like it never happened. Another Musk proposal that almost nobody is against is a crackdown on Twitter bots. Those are the anonymous accounts that can sort of gang up on people and attack them en masse on the platform. It's pretty unpleasant. And I think it's fair to say that there's a user consensus that fewer bots on Twitter is a good thing.

FADEL: OK, but how about people who've been banned from Twitter, prominent people like former President Trump? Would this mean he'd be allowed back?

ALLYN: Yeah, that's the question on everyone's mind. Musk hasn't publicly addressed whether Trump is going to come back. Trump, for his part, told Fox News that he has no plans to return, but we shall see. I mean, you know, from Trump on down, there could be invitations to these people who have been banned to come back to the platform, but we just have to see. There was an all-hands meeting on Monday, and Twitter's CEO was asked specifically about Trump - will he be coming back to Twitter? And the CEO said, that is now completely up to Elon Musk, as are so many things about Twitter's future right now.

FADEL: NPR's Bobby Allyn. Bobby, thanks.

ALLYN: Hey, thanks so much.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.