For Elon Musk, buying Twitter in October for $44 billion was part of a grand plan for creating a “super app” — called an “X-App” — modeled after China’s WeChat.
But Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, also had another goal in mind: his investment, he tweeted, was “important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated.”
Since then, Musk has emerged as a central figure in America’s culture wars.
As head of Twitter, he fired chief executive Parag Agrawal, as well as the board, appointing himself as sole director. As a result, some critics say, he’s removed some safeguards implemented by the previous regime to mitigate hate speech and the spread of misinformation, which disproportionately target marginalized communities.
Hate speech toward Black Americans spiked 500 percent within the first 12 hours of Musk’s Twitter coup and has sustained a 200 percent increase over the last several months. Another study found that derogatory tweets and retweets that mention the LGBTQ+ community and “grooming” skyrocketed 119 percent since Musk’s acquisition, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate. In yet another report, the rate of antisemitic tweets increased by 105 percent when comparing the four-month time periods before and after Musk’s purchase.
Politically, Musk has aligned himself with conservatives, reinstating formerly suspended users such as former President Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Musk has also signaled his support of the expected White House run of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, while relishing in trolling Democrats.
His Twitter takeover has firmly cemented him at the center of American politics at a time when the app continues to be the dominant platform used by lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle.