All The Ways Twitter Has Already Changed Under Elon Musk

Elon Musk is now the master of Twitter, a platform that he sees as the de facto public town square, and which he aims to turn into a free-speech utopia. However, Musk's takeover has been met with a rather vocal, but divisive, reaction. For folks that see him as a visionary, they are already predicting a revival of Twitter's fortunes, both as a product and a business. The likes of Mark Cuban, at least, think that way.

Others say Musk will drive the platform to the ground because of his inexperience running a company that is more politically sensitive and administratively entangled than any business he has run before. Then there's the concern about Musk's impact on steering the discourse on Twitter in the immediate future.

Whether he maintains its neutrality while bolstering free speech remains to be seen. How will he manage the conflict of interests while also serving as the chief of Tesla, when rival carmakers already advertise on Twitter? Will Twitter see an exodus of influential people under Musk's lordship? A lot has happened in the past few weeks.

Start the job with house cleaning

It is not a strange phenomenon to see a new owner cleaning the board and other C-suite executives after acquiring a company. Musk proved no different. Soon after news broke that Musk has finally signed the papers and has officially become the "chief twit," it was revealed that Musk had fired CEO Parag Agrawal, who took over the helm from co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.

Musk had no special fondness for Agrawal and even challenged him to a debate publicly on Twitter over the platform's real user engagement and bot figures. Musk also laid off Twitter's top policy and legal executive Vijaya Gadde. Gadde is said to have been the architect behind suspending Donald Trump's account, a decision that Musk classified as "flat-out stupid."

Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal was also fired, alongside General Counsel at Twitter, Sean Edgett. There are also reports floating around that Musk is reshuffling the core engineering team at Twitter, and has also brought in Tesla's engineering team for an analysis.

Twitter waves goodbye to the stock exchange

One of the earliest grievances that Musk had with Twitter was the inability to take hard decisions, and that's because it has a public company where investors' will reigned supreme. Even Jack Dorsey reportedly confided as much in Musk, and the latter expressed publicly that Twitter needs to be taken private to take the heavy-hitting decisions that could inject fresh energy into the platform.

Well, now that Musk has paid his $44 billion with help from banks and a few very rich friends, the billionaire is taking Twitter private. Twitter has already filed Form 25 before the US SEC, an agency that Musk is not really fond of. The SEC, in turn, has directed the New York Stock Exchange to delist TWTR from its registry when trading begins on the morning of November 8, 2022.

Now, Musk will no longer have to release quarterly earnings reports publicly and field questions from investors. Twitter is effectively a closed book from a financial transparency perspective, and the only parties that will be privy to any such information will be supporting bank entities like Morgan Stanley, which need their fat interest in return for staking $13 billion in debt towards the purchase.

Some hellraisers have been unbanned, while others are gone for good

When Musk began suggesting he would turn Twitter into a "free speech platform" speculation was rife about what this would mean for accounts that were banned under the previous regime's rules. At the top of the list was the account belonging to former president, and one of the platform's most notorious tweeters, Donald Trump. Trump's account was permanently suspended following the events of January 6, 2021, with a statement at the time citing "the risk of further incitement of violence." Musk initially didn't unsuspend Trump, and said a panel would be formed to assess his case along with other high-profile suspensions. However, that never happened. Instead, Musk ran a Twitter poll and unsuspended Trump's account. He then offered a "general amnesty" to other accounts following another poll, but not everyone was unbanned.

Controversial radio host Alex Jones is one individual Musk sees as beyond redemption. The billionaire tweeted about the death of his own child, while stating he has "no mercy" for people like Jones who "would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame." Kanye West is also permanently suspended. The rapper was removed from the platform last year after a series of antisemitic tweets. Musk appeared to give "Ye" numerous chances, as previous tweets were removed and messages were sent outside the platform.

A surge in right-wing influence

"The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilisation to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner," Musk recently said of the deal. However, the news of his takeover has found a celebratory tone in the right wing circle, and dejection from those on the left side of the political ideology. There are numbers that suggest such a reality.

According to an analysis, accounts of popular far-right figures such as Lauren Boebert and Kari Lake have seen their follower growth shoot up by as much as 1,200% in the past 24 hours. The accounts in question are well-known for spreading hateful discourse and disinformation, which is an alarming trend.

The spike in popularity of these popular far-right accounts can not be conclusively linked to Musk's takeover of the platform. However, the sudden spurt in popularity due to fresh Twitter accounts aligns with the window when the final formalities that handed over total control of Twitter in the hands of Elon Musk, concluded.

Tesla rivals are on the fence

Elon Musk is now the simultaneous owner of Twitter — a plum place for advertising — and Tesla, the world's largest electric car brand. So, it was always a natural question for Tesla rivals to do a double-take about advertising on a platform owned by Musk. The concerns about accessing a neutral online platform are legitimate. What if Musk algorithmically suppresses their ads? What if Tesla ads on Twitter get an unfair advantage?

Earlier today, French carmaker Citroen shared a cheeky tweet that said "Hello to the social media platform owned by one of our competitors." The tweet set the tone for a serious debate that eventually snowballed into a realistic business and landed at the doorsteps of General Motors.

GM has now put a hold on advertising its goods and services on Twitter. The company will continue to rely on Twitter for resolving customer queries, but it won't be paying for ads on the platform for an undisclosed duration. It would be interesting to see if automakers decide to altogether shun their brand presence on Twitter, especially the likes of Ford and Stellantis that are increasingly competing against Tesla in the EV game.

Exodus of influential personalities

Ever since Musk first declared that he had purchased a majority stake in Twitter, which eventually transformed into full-house ownership, numerous influential personalities have expressed intent of waving goodbye to Twitter, fearing where the platform was headed under Musk's leadership.

Ken Olin, executive producer of NBC drama "This Is Us" announced his exit from Twitter with a tweet that said "I'm out of here. No judgement," further adding that "Let's protect our democracy." According to The Hollywood Reporter, Alex Winter of the "Bill & Ted" movie fame and co-writer of "Ocean's Thirteen," Brian Koppelman, have also bid adieu to the platform.

Wrestling News reports that WWE legend Mick foley has deleted his Twitter account. Other celebrities that have threatened to leave Twitter in the past include "The Good Place" star Jameela Jamil, "The Watcher" star Mia Farrow, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, and author Amy Siskind. Others like "Star Trek" legend George Takei have expressed that they will hang on to the platform and will try to balance out the negativity.

Musk changing the Twitter logo to Doge

Twitter's new CEO is a well-documented lover of all things meme. Musk's timeline is littered with internet in-jokes, and he often issues them as responses to his detractors. One particular meme has been one of Musk's gotos for some time. "Doge" is a Shiba-Inu-based meme that originated well over a decade ago. It has since inspired an essentially worthless cryptocurrency named "Dogecoin" which Musk also seems enthusiastic about. Despite being limitless in supply, the price of "Dogecoin" has spiked several times in response to some of Musk's antics.

The latest Doge-based joke Musk has pulled on the platform he paid $44 million for seems to have been a long time coming. Musk seemingly had the "bird" logo that appears in numerous locations throughout the site and in the middle of any loading screens changed to the canine meme. The entrepreneur also posted a screenshot of a Twitter conversation he apparently had a while back where another user encouraged him to buy Twitter and "change the bird logo to a doge." The change only lasted a few days, and at the time of writing the "bird logo" is back. As with many of Musk's changes, this one took place while the site was suffering from an irritating timeline glitch that affected how things are retweeted.

Musk announced users will have to pay for their verification checkmark

One of Musk's most famous and controversial policies revolves around how Twitter's iconic "blue checkmarks" are implemented. The checkmarks were previously free and used to identify notable users whose accounts were in danger of being impersonated. This included everyone from celebrities and high-ranking political figures, to local news journalists and even notable social media influencers. 

Musk opted for a different approach, and decided the checkmarks should no longer be free, and be available to everyone. Musk's plan tied the checkmarks to the "Twitter Blue" subscription service and saw the price of said service increase to $8 a month. Unfortunately for Twitter's new owner, the checkmark revamp has led to a number of issues. Shortly after its initial launch, the issuance of Twitter Blue-based checkmarks was suspended after trolls took advantage of the concept and impersonated major companies, politicians, and other notable accounts. Blue has since relaunched, but other problems remain.

The Twitter owner has been threatening to remove "legacy" checkmarks from users that refuse to pay for them for months, and initially set a deadline of April 1 for legacy users to sign up if they wanted to keep their tick. This date came and went, yet the legacy checkmarks remain. Travis Brown, who has been recording Twitter Blue subscription data, claims only around 3.6% of legacy users have opted to sign up for the subscription service. Despite most users keeping their checkmarks, Musk has also lashed out at organizations like the New York Times, and removed the company's verification after it confirmed it would not be paying for its checkmark.

He changed Twitter's algorithm so his tweets will be shown to users first

Back in February, users noticed something strange had happened with Twitter's new "For You" feed. It was showing a strange number of Elon Musk's tweets, even for users who didn't follow the billionaire, or interact with anyone associated with him. The incident occurred shortly after Musk fired one of the site's engineers after asking a question about the reach of his tweets and receiving an unsatisfactory answer.

Nothing has been officially confirmed, but it seems a tweak intended to make Musk's tweets a bit more prominent on the platform went too far. As a result, many people claimed it was pretty clear that the company's new owner had tweaked the site's algorithm in order to expand his own reach. While he didn't entirely admit what was happening, Musk did tweet that users should "stay tuned while we make adjustments to [the algorithm]" alongside a meme implying he was shoving his tweets down other users' throats. The algorithm pushing Musk's tweets to the forefront seems to have been scaled back since then, but it is currently unknown how much influence it still has.

Twitter temporarily banned linking to other social media platforms

Not everyone was happy with Musk's takeover of the social media platform. Some opted to, or at least threatened to, leave because of their opposition to the billionaire's stances and policies. Others saw Musk's actions as something that would lead to the death of Twitter within the next few months. As a result, many users were looking for an alternative social media site, with Mastodon being amongst the more popular choices. Not wanting to lose the connections they had made and followers they had gained during their time on Twitter, several users were posting links to their profiles on other sites. To seemingly clamp down on this, Twitter implemented one of its most controversial policies since Musk's takeover.

Twitter Support issued a statement saying "We recognize that many of our users are active on other social media platforms. However, we will no longer allow free promotion of certain social media platforms on Twitter." Users were then allegedly banned for posting links to other social media sites, as well as link aggregators which can be used to link to profiles across platforms. After an outcry, Musk backtracked on the policy — apologizing and promising to allow users to vote on major decisions from then on.

Twitter rolled out a new For You page

In January of 2023, Twitter launched its "for you" page, which displays tweets users may be interested in reading. Accounts see the page first by default, and it acts as a replacement for the previous "Twitter Home" page. Along with tweets from people you follow, tweets popular amongst people on your following list will also show up, along with messages similar to ones you have previously viewed or liked. However, the launch was just Twitter Home's first step. From April 15, Musk says that only tweets from "verified" accounts will show up on the "For You" page. This move will severely limit the reach of messages not sent from "verified" accounts, which basically means you'll have to pay him $8 a month if you want your tweets to get much traction.

The algorithm powering the page has also received a lot of criticism. In many cases, the tweets showing up aren't really ones the people viewing them want to see. Users have complained about the For You page being littered with political tweets they don't want to see, extreme content, and even too many messages from Elon Musk himself.