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The Margin: Twitter’s board accepts Elon Musk’s offer — and users are either celebrating ‘free speech’ or saying ‘RIP Twitter’

It’s official: Twitter’s board has agreed to let Elon Musk buy the social media network for $44 billion.

And Twitter users have plenty to say about that.

After all, when Musk, the world’s richest man, first disclosed that he had lined up $46.5 billion in financing to buy Twitter on April 14, the news became the talk of social media. So it should come as no surprise that the news Twitter had accepted Musk’s unsolicited bid made the billionaire Tesla
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and SpaceX founder the talk of the Twitterverse once more on Monday.

And once again, some users threatened to leave the social media platform if Musk took over, leading #DeleteTwitter and #RIPTwitter to also trend throughout the day, even before the deal was finalized. 

Musk responded to the early backlash before his bid even went through on Monday by tweeting, “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.” His missive drew support from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, who wrote, “Exactly right.”

Indeed, not everybody was dismayed by Musk’s Twitter takeover, as many suggested that he would bring free speech “back” to the platform. Some conservative politicians and pundits have been angry about Twitter permanently suspending former President Donald Trump’s personal account last year “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. And these critics have accused Twitter and other social media sites such as Meta’s
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Facebook (which also suspended Trump’s account) of liberal bias and silencing free speech. So Musk’s Twitter takeover was seen by some as a takedown of Big Tech.

Free speech, an increasingly hot topic as the public and investors have reacted to Musk’s offer, has limitations under U.S. law. For example, freedom of speech does not include the right to “incite imminent lawless action” or “make or distribute obscene materials.”

In the past, Musk suggested that he would crack down on bot and spam accounts, and introduce an edit button if he were to take ownership of Twitter — a feature many users have been wanting for some time.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in the release announcing the deal. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

And on the topic of “free speech,” one particular subject of interest included what Musk would do with previously banned accounts that violated Twitter’s terms and conditions. These include Trump’s personal account, even though the former president has said that he would not be interested in returning to “boring” Twitter, even if Musk would let him back on.

Read more: Even if Musk would let Trump back on Twitter, the former president and Truth Social’s Devin Nunes say he’s not interested

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “No matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president has long been concerned about the power large social media platforms have over our everyday lives.”

To be clear, these tweets are just a few reactions to the Musk-Twitter news, and are not necessarily a representative sample of everyone’s opinions on the sale.

And, of course, many of the Twitter users reacting to reports of Musk moving forward in buying Twitter were simply there for the jokes and memes.

Some of the discussions online on Monday also included questions and suggestions about what other social media platforms people could turn to. Rival platforms including Tumblr, Parler and Truth Social were also trending on Twitter early Monday afternoon, as well as older and now obsolete social networks like Friendster and LiveJournal. 

Shares of Twitter Inc. were up 6.3% during Monday’s trading after the deal for Musk to acquire the company was confirmed, while Tesla shares dipped slightly just after the news was announced.

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