- Elon Musk finally closed a $44 billion deal to purchase Twitter last week.
- It’s been a chaotic few days for the platform, including a surge in racist and anti-Semitic tweets
- A number of high-profile celebrities and influencers have already jumped ship.
Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, finally closed a $44 billion deal to purchase Twitter on Thursday after months of legal clashes and handwringing. Almost immediately, a series of controversies and air of chaos emerged in the short span since Musk took over the platform.
Musk has ignited backlash for planned changes to Twitter, while far-right conspiracy theorists and anti-Semitic trolls took Musk’s arrival as an opportunity to spread hateful rhetoric. Internally, potentially large-scale layoffs and changing priorities have led to reports of panicked workers worried about their jobs.
Here’s a rundown of everything that’s happened as of Monday afternoon.
Fringe forum users organized an anti-Semitic campaign on Twitter, while racism surged
Musk has long spoken out about the need for “free speech,” and said he would prioritize it as Twitter’s new owner. Although he tried to reassure advertisers on Thursday that the platform won’t become a “free-for-all hellscape,” Musk’s free speech pronouncements thrilled internet users who were banned from the platform and thought he would not moderate against hate speech.
Soon after he finally bought the company, an organized campaign of internet users began spreading anti-Semitic posts on Twitter under the hashtag #TheNoticing. The Anti-Defamation League said it found over 1,200 tweets and retweets with anti-Semitic memes on Twitter between Thursday and Friday afternoon. A lot of the posts — many of which promote hateful stereotypes about Jewish people — are still online as of Monday.
The campaign originally began on the fringe forum 4chan, according to the ADL, and gained traction after a user posted instructions on propagating anti-Semitic content, which was shared to multiple Telegram channels. The targeted campaign came after a surge of anti-Semitic rhetoric online in the wake of Kanye West’s recent anti-Semitic rants.
The use of the N-word also spiked in the hours after Musk’s deal closed, with The Washington Post reporting that its use increased by 500% in the 12 hours since he took over the platform. NBA star LeBron James responded on Twitter to an Insider article covering the rise in usage of the racist slur, tweeting that Musk should take the development seriously.
“I dont know Elon Musk and, tbh, I could care less who owns twitter. But I will say that if this is true, I hope he and his people take this very seriously because this is scary AF,” James tweeted.
Musk replied by sharing a tweet from Yoel Roth, head of safety and integrity at Twitter, that claimed the majority of accounts tweeting the racist slur were “inauthentic.”
Musk shared a conspiracy theory about Nancy Pelosi’s husband and his attacker
Only a couple of days into his acquisition, Musk also sparked backlash for tweeting a link to an article from a website with a history of outlandish falsehoods that featured a baseless conspiracy theory about the suspect who entered Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s house and attacked her husband, Paul Pelosi.
Musk wrote the tweet as a reply to Hillary Clinton condemning the Republican party’s rhetoric for leading to this type of real-life violence. “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” Musk wrote in the tweet, which he deleted hours later.
The article, titled “The Awful Truth: Paul Pelosi Was Drunk Again, And In a Dispute With a Male Prostitute Early Friday Morning,” contained no verifiable information, and the author said it was their own opinion. Musk’s tweet suggesting the article was legitimate echoed a wider effort by far-right influencers and some conservatives to downplay and spread baseless theories about the attack.
Musk’s tweet was shared and liked tens of thousands of times before he ultimately deleted it following backlash that he was spreading anti-LGBTQ misinformation.
Musk is reportedly working on plans to make verified users pay for blue checkmarks
One of the first big changes Musk will reportedly make to the platform’s functionality involves Twitter’s verified blue check. After Musk tweeted Sunday that the “the whole verification process is being revamped right now,” The Verge reported that verified users could soon have to pay $19.99.
Users who already have the blue checkmark will have to pay in 90 days or else they’ll lose it, and the staffers working on the change will have to finish it by November 7th or Musk will fire them, according to The Verge, which cited internal sources and correspondence. The report drew derision from people upset that they’d be forced to subscribe. Others were confused at how the shift would make any sense financially for the platform.
“$20 a month to keep my blue check?” the author Stephen King tweeted Monday morning. “Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.”
Later on Monday, Twitter announced in an SEC filing that Musk had dissolved the company’s board of nine directors and made himself the sole director of the entire platform.
Multiple high-profile figures have already left the platform
A number of celebrities and influencers have already left Twitter in the aftermath of Musk’s acquisition. Among them are the singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and television producer and creator Shonda Rhimes, who has nearly two million followers on the platform.
“Not hanging around for whatever Elon has planned,” Rhimes wrote on Saturday. “Bye.”
The actor and director Ken Olin and showrunner Brian Koppelman appeared to quit the platform as well. The popular gaming news influencer Nibel also said he was leaving Twitter, citing Musk’s takeover of the company as one reason behind the move.
“I don’t think that Twitter has yet experienced good leadership, and this trend will not change with Musk either,” Nibel wrote in a Patreon statement, according to The Verge. “I do not trust Musk and his seemingly infinite immaturity.”