Elon Musk set the tone for his first full day as head of Twitter with a response to @catturd2.
The account, a well-followed one that has repeatedly pushed false election fraud claims and was retweeted by former President Donald Trump, tweeted at Musk on Thursday night that he continued to lose followers and was having his account’s reach limited by the company.
“I will be digging in more today,” Musk tweeted in response Friday morning.
He followed up not long after: “let the good times roll”
🎶 let the good times roll 🎶
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2022
Nothing seems to have changed just yet in terms of the platform’s operations. As of Friday morning, Trump’s account was still suspended, and trending topics included everything from the news of the day (Paul Pelosi) to culture (#FridayFeeling, Rihanna).
But the expectations for change were almost everywhere. “Elon” was one of the top trending topics of the morning, and many conservative influencers who had been critical of Twitter’s moderation were already celebrating what they saw as a tectonic shift.
If nothing had yet institutionally changed, the vibes had certainly shifted.
“Can you feel it?” @catturd2 later tweeted. “Twitter is actually fun again.”
The professional account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., whose personal account was banned by Twitter this year for violating its policy about coronavirus misinformation, celebrated Thursday evening with a tweet that read, “FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!!,” and Friday morning, “We are winning.”
Far-right media pundits also claimed Musk’s takeover as a victory for their cause. Ben Shapiro, an author and the founder of the conservative outlet The Daily Wire, retweeted Musk with a meme of popping champagne, and tweeted, “We can only hope that other social media bosses (cc: Mark Zuckerberg) follow Musk’s lead.”
Many on the right posted on Twitter to ask its new boss to reverse previous bans. Benny Johnson, host of a right-wing internet talk show and a contributor to Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit group, tweeted “It’s time. Bring them all back,” with a video of a carousel of names including Trump, Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist behind Infowars who was banned in 2018 for violating Twitter’s abusive behavior policy, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart editor who was banned in 2016 for inciting a racist campaign against comedian Leslie Jones.
But changes may not be coming as soon as initially thought. Musk tweeted Friday afternoon that the company “will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints.”
“No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” he added.
The council would echo that of Facebook’s Oversight Board, which the social network first put together in 2020 to discuss and rule on challenging questions about platform moderatoin.
But just a few hours after that, Musk tweeted: “Anyone suspended for minor & dubious reasons will be freed from Twitter jail.”
Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints.
No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2022
Some users said Friday they already observed an uptick in abuse.
“Seems a bit of a comms issue for Twitter that Musk’s takeover has triggered a wave of offensive tweets from people who now think that’s okay thanks to Musk, and no-one seems to know if the reporting system is still used by Twitter, or it’s just a racist and abusive free for all,” tweeted Eliot Higgins, founder of the investigative outlet Bellingcat.
Social media watchdogs, civil rights groups and many other civil society organizations have warned that Musk’s moves could open the door to a resurgence of hate speech and abuse on the platform.
It’s not clear yet if many Twitter users are already leaving. Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter, trended for a while Thursday, and data from the app tracking company Apptopia found it did see its daily downloads double. Those downloads, however, are still less than 5,000 per day, while Twitter often still sees hundreds of thousands of downloads per day, according to Adam Blacker, vice president of insights at Apptopia.
Trump weighed in on the situation via his own Twitter-like platform, Truth Social, touting its growth but also expressing his approval of Musk’s takeover.
“I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by the Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country,” his account posted.
By Friday afternoon, some Twitter employees appeared to have been let go.