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Will Twitter change when Elon Musk joins its board?


By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

April 5, 2022 | 6 min read

Elon Musk has been appointed to the Twitter board and vows to bring in “improvements” to the service.

Twitter building

Elon Musk has been an outspoken critic of Twitter

It follows the news that the Tesla owner had acquired a 9.2% stake in the company following years of criticism of the social platform. The appointment to the board is widely seen as a strategic move to prevent Musk – who claims to have taken the acquisition to improve “free speech” on the platform – from acquiring more than 15% of the company. Despite that, Musk’s significant stake in the company now makes him the largest shareholder.

Musk is a repeat critic of Twitter, which he has previously misused to announce business decisions, which eventually led to the SEC stepping in. He has also publicly questioned the platform’s commitment to “free speech,” though what he ultimately means by that remains to be seen.

Over the past two years Twitter has tightened its controls on who can use the platform and to say what. It has previously been criticized for allowing abuse of individuals and for its lack of moderation options when it comes to mis- and disinformation across its channels. The changes it has brought in in the wake of the 2021 Capitol riots and vaccine misinformation have been widely praised, and it has continued to refine its efforts in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Tom Edwards is digital marketing director of Goat. He says: "In the past, Twitter has shown a lapse in terms of its censorship and adherence to freedom of speech. Whilst many might argue that the removal of Donald Trump was an impeachment of free speech, Twitter’s decision was one based on prohibiting the incitement of violence following the Capitol riots.

"Individual cases such as a Palestinian-American journalist having her account silenced due to imagery issues indicate an improper infringement of AI. However, the platform as a whole has only acted when necessary, and in the spirit of protecting people. While Twitter does have some underlying issues, they appear to be necessary and aim to achieve the greater good."

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement on Monday, Musk tweeted asking if users who followed him would like an edit button added to the site, a frequent request that Twitter has previously discounted for the potential for misuse. Twitter chief Parag Agwaral noted that the results of the snap poll would be “important.”

Musk’s appointment to the board is also consequential in that he is a proponent of cryptocurrencies including dogecoin. Twitter has previously dipped its toes in the water with the creation of non-fungible token (NFT) profile pictures and the ability to tip in crypto, but even before Musk joined it was keen to stress those acquisitions were “just the beginning.”

Twitter lacks the reach of other social networks, but is widely seen as having disproportionate influence. It is the primary chosen communications channel of many organizations and prominent individuals.

Its influence can be demonstrated by the fact that many US conservatives who, like Musk, criticized Twitter for purported ‘free speech’ issues, effectively cloned Twitter’s app when creating alternatives.

It is still unclear of the extent to which Musk will be able to bring in any of the changes he wants to Twitter.

Jack Dorsey, the former chief executive of the platform, said he is “happy” that Musk is joining the Twitter board and that “he cares deeply about our world and Twitter’s role in it.” Dorsey resigned as chief exec last November but will remain on the board until May.

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