Elon Musk and Twitter’s board on Monday agreed on a deal for the eccentric Tesla CEO to acquire the company at $54.20 per share in cash. 

The marriage of the world’s richest man and one of the most influential social media platforms — of which he is an active user -— has left questions about how the company will be run, what it means for American politics and the dissemination of information in general.  

Here are five things we’ll be watching as details of the company’s new makeup become public: 

Will banned users return? 

Musk has laid out a more relaxed vision for content moderation that would lean toward temporary “timeouts” over permanent bans.  

Advocacy groups are concerned that this switch could reverse Twitter’s permanent bans on public figures and politicians — including former President Trump.  

“With this sale, you can fully expect Donald Trump’s account to be restored along with a whole host of other accounts that engaged in abuse, harassment, and repeated violations of Twitter’s rules. The race to the bottom begins,” Angelo Carusone, president of the left-leaning Media Matters for America, said in a statement.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), using her official account, suggested that after Musk “seals the deal” she will get access to her personal account “restored” after it was banned in January for repeated violations of Twitter’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. 

Trump said Monday he would not return to Twitter but would remain on his own platform, Truth Social. However, some of Trump’s advisers told The Washington Post they don’t think he would turn down an offer to return to the platform that brought him so much attention during his campaign and term. 

Media Matters compiled a list of banned Twitter users, including Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander and prominent QAnon figures celebrating Musk’s takeover, that critics believe could pose a threat if allowed back on the platform. 

“These folks are organized,” said Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press and co-founder of Change the Terms.  

“I’m really talking about sophisticated, coordinated … efforts to use these platforms to radicalize people, to raise funds, to normalize violence and to issue calls to action for violent and threatening activity that happens in real life,” she added.  

Leadership changes 

While Musk and Twitter did agree on a deal for taking the company private on Monday, the purchase itself may take until the end of 2022 to wrap up while shareholders vote on the agreement and regulatory hurdles are cleared. 

During that time, CEO Parag Agrawal and the independent board that approved the offer will remain in charge of Twitter. 

“I think we feel very comfortable that [the deal] gives this team the ability to continue to make the company successful in between signing and closing the transaction,” Bret Taylor, chair of Twitter’s board of directors, reportedly said during a company-wide town hall Monday evening. 

Once the deal is closed however, a shakeup at the top of the company seems likely. 

Musk’s relationship with current leadership has not been publicly confrontational. But Musk did reject their offer to join the board, an indication that he might be interested in pursuing his own vision of the platform.  

Agrawal will be in line for a $38.7 million pay package if the deal goes through and Musk chooses to terminate him. 

It would be difficult for Musk to head the company alone given his active leadership or involvement in Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company and Neuralink. 

Whom Musk chooses to head Twitter if he refreshes current leadership could be the clearest signal of his plans for the platform.   

“Once the deal closes, we don’t know which direction the platform will go,” Agrawal reportedly admitted during Monday’s town hall. 

How could the product change? 

Major changes are likely to wait until the deal is completed.  

Musk has given some hints to what those could look like beyond his commitment to “free speech.”  

“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,” he said in a statement on the deal’s announcement. 

Musk has said that algorithms that make recommendations to users on what accounts to follow, posts to view or topics to read up on should be opened to public viewing. 

Such a move could assuage concerns about political bias on the platform and give researchers much-needed access to social media’s levers. 

But Twitter has already been very open about the effect of its algorithms. The company released a study in the fall finding that they tend to amplify right-leaning politicians more than their counterparts.  

Fully publishing complex algorithms could not only lead to confusion, but open the platform up to cybersecurity risks. 

Musk has been very vocal about his desire to cut down on spam on Twitter but has given few specifics about how he would do.  

Musk’s proposal to authenticate all humans on Twitter has also prompted worry from civil society groups. 

Simple checks like CAPTCHAs before posting would likely be gameable with spam bots, while more stringent checks like ID verification would destroy the pseudonymity that Twitter has worked hard to maintain. 

Even if users are not required to post their real names on the platform, that data will have to be collected by Twitter and, therefore, could be compelled by governments to turn it over.  

The impacts on free speech and the right to protest, especially in authoritarian states that already have rules against government criticism on social media, could be devastating. 

“There are no easy ways to require verification without wreaking havoc for some users, and for free speech,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in statement. 

Washington’s ire 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are using Musk’s takeover to fuel their respective battles against powerful tech companies.  

Republicans are embracing Musk as an ally in their fight against “Big Tech overlords.” 

“Elon Musk is helping us defeat the Big Tech overlords. Our digital public squares need to be returned to us,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) tweeted.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) echoed Musk’s own words, saying the platform’s “full potential” will be unlocked if Musk can change the platform to “actually protect free speech and encourage open discourse.”  

The GOP support builds on years of attacks on Twitter over claims of the platform censoring content with an anti-conservative bias.

But Democrats say Musk’s ownership raises additional concerns about the spread of disinformation. 

“It’s always a concern when an oligarch may be owning the town square. I think we do need to pay a lot of attention to how it’s managed,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told The Hill.  

Some progressives are using Musk’s takeover to push for a wealth tax and elevate concerns about power consolidation. 

“This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold Big Tech accountable,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted.  

How will Twitter’s workers respond? 

Twitter has long been known as one of the most open places to work in Silicon Valley. 

Workers have been encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings on the platform for years. Many of them did just that Monday as news of the deal broke, expressing confusion and dismay. 

“Can someone just tell me if I’m rich or fired please,” one said.

“The news today is so crazy I literally forgot I have COVID,” posted another.

The majority of the company’s 5,000-plus employees work in liberal San Francisco and, until now, have worked for a platform known for its aggressive approach to content moderation.  

The company has led social media competitors in reacting to Trump’s dissemination of election disinformation and the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. 

Musk’s version of free speech appears to run counter to that approach, setting up potential ideological clashes.  

The company reportedly took a precautionary measure Monday by temporarily freezing changes to the platform until next week. The move comes after one employee briefly took down Trump’s account several years ago. 

Musk also has a less than stellar reputation for the treatment of his employees. 

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is in the midst of a lawsuit against Tesla over allegations of racism and harassment toward Black employees at a plant in Fremont, Calif. 

The National Labor Relations Board also found Tesla allegedly unlawfully interrogated and threatened workers over suspected union campaigns. 

The loss of one of the key financial benefits of working for Twitter — stock — is unlikely to help matters. 

“Elon aside, can anyone explain to me how Twitter will hire/keep employees since there isn’t company stock to create competitive comp packages? A significant part of our pay is in RSUs,” on employee asked Tuesday.

Tags Donald Trump Elon Musk Elon Musk Marjorie Taylor Greene Parag Agrawal Social media SpaceX Telsa Twitter

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