Table of contents
Elon Musk's Acquisition of Twitter
In October 2022, billionaire Elon Musk completed his acquisition of social media platform Twitter for $44 billion. Musk took over as CEO with ambitious plans to reform Twitter's products, features, algorithms, content policies, and workforce. His tenure has proven controversial and chaotic thus far.
Musk moved quickly to enact his vision. Within his first week, he fired Twitter's CEO Parag Agrawal and several other top executives. He laid off about 50% of Twitter's staff in an effort to cut costs. This led to disorganization and critical deficiencies, prompting Musk to ask some fired employees to return. Musk also dissolved Twitter's trust and safety council that advised on content moderation policies.
Changes to Content Moderation
Under Musk, Twitter relaxed its misinformation policies and hate speech protections. It stopped enforcing its COVID-19 misinformation rules and restrictions against deadnaming or misgendering transgender people. Musk reinstated several previously banned accounts like Donald Trump's. He introduced a new $8 per month Twitter Blue subscription that verifies users with a blue checkmark, allowing many impersonators to pose as public figures and businesses.
After an uproar over the proliferation of impersonation accounts, Musk paused the revised Twitter Blue verification system. But it relaunched in December with separate colors for organizations and government accounts. Musk has yet to fulfill his promise of forming a content moderation council representing diverse viewpoints. Instead he introduced Community Notes, a new crowdsourced fact checking feature.
Pushback and Departures
Musk's changes have drawn widespread criticism. Civil rights groups condemned the rollback of content moderation protections. Advertisers like General Mills and Volkswagen paused spending on Twitter amid concerns about brand safety and the risk of appearing alongside hate speech or misinformation.
There was further backlash in mid-December when Musk suspended journalists who were reporting on his private jet's movements being tracked by a Twitter account called @ElonJet. After suspending @ElonJet and several of its creator's other accounts for alleged doxxing, Twitter proceeded to ban journalists who covered the controversy. Most were later reinstated, but the incident highlighted Musk's inconsistent commitment to free speech.
In response to Musk's takeover, some groups like the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League paused or reduced their Twitter activity. High-profile users like Shonda Rhimes, Trent Reznor, and Toni Braxton left the platform. Musk claims Twitter usage and revenue have increased under his leadership, but third-party data shows declines in usage, ad spending, and subscriber growth compared to competitors.
Rebranding Twitter to X
In July 2023, Musk announced plans to rebrand Twitter to "X." The name change reflects Musk's desire to transform Twitter into an "everything app" incorporating features like payments, ecommerce, and subscription content.
Musk posted a GIF teasing the new X logo, which resembles an abstract red and blue "X" character. He stated the rebranding will occur once all legal and visual details are finalized.
This rebranding aims to further Musk's goal of creating "Twitter 2.0", a super app rivaling WeChat in China. But analysts warn it carries major risks. Twitter has high brand recognition globally. Rebranding could confuse users and dilute brand equity built up over 14 years. It may also trigger costly renegotiations of licenses and partnerships relying on Twitter branding.
The rollout of X has already seen issues. Musk registered trademark applications for the X logo and name in October 2022. But he did not secure "@x" as the rebranded handle, and other parties swooped in to claim ownership of "@x" along with "x.com" and "x.org" domain names. This oversight highlights the rushed, chaotic nature of the rebranding under Musk.
Despite uncertainties, Musk remains committed to molding Twitter into a one-stop platform for news, commerce, payments and entertainment under the new X identity. But major questions linger about the direction Twitter will take as Musk continues his controversial overhaul of the influential social media company.
Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter has led to significant upheaval at the company. While Musk aims to transform Twitter into a super app called X, his first months as CEO have been marked by hasty changes, public backlash, advertiser exodus, and employee departures. It remains to be seen whether Musk's ambitious vision for Twitter can be achieved, or if his chaotic leadership and controversial moves will undermine the platform's role as an influential communications medium. Musk faces huge challenges in realizing his goals for the rebranded X while maintaining public trust and a sustainable business model. The path forward for Twitter is filled with uncertainty under its new owner.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below