It should come as no surprise that Elon Musk proposing a hostile takeover of Twitter on Thursday quickly became the talk of Twitter — as well as subreddits like WallStreetBets, and conservative social media platforms Gettr and Truth Social.
The chatter ranged from supporters celebrating Musk’s move as a takedown of “Big Tech,” to critics (and people identifying as Twitter employees) threatening to leave the platform if Musk got his way, and questioning what he knows about running a social media company.
On Twitter TWTR, -1.68%, “Elon Musk” trended with “free speech” on Thursday morning. He was also a top Google GOOGL, -2.44% search trend, along with Twitter and his EV company Tesla Inc. TSLA, -3.66%, drawing more than 200,000 searches. The most popular Google queries included, “Can Elon Musk takeover Twitter?” and “Why is Elon trying to buy Twitter?”
Many conservative politicians and pundits, still smarting from former President Donald Trump’s personal account being “permanently suspended” from Twitter last year “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, have accused the platform (and Meta-owned FB, -2.24% Facebook, which also suspended Trump) of liberal bias and silencing free speech.
The far-right social media platform Gettr said that Musk’s takeover bid was further evidence that “Twitter is a broken platform” in a press release on Thursday.
“It’s clear Twitter disrespected the world’s richest man, and he realizes that while Twitter’s technology is good, the people running it cannot be fixed,” Gettr CEO Jason Miller said in a statement. “Musk has made clear that in order to be saved, Twitter needs a wholesale tear-down to the foundation, its leadership must be removed, and the politically discriminating ideologues running day to day operations must be replaced.”
Other conservative critics suggested that Musk buying Twitter could lead to Trump rejoining the platform — although the former president said Thursday that “Twitter’s become very boring,” so he didn’t intend to come back even if Musk would have him back on. Others crowed that Musk buying Twitter would bring free speech “back” to the platform.
It should be noted that Twitter has been cracking down on accounts pushing misinformation or spreading inflammatory remarks — such as Trump’s — in a push toward accountability and transparency as social media companies have had to reckon with their potential role in drug addiction, death, mental illness and sexual abuse, as well as the spread of health and COVID misinformation during the pandemic. But that hasn’t necessarily silenced conservative voices. A recent internal Twitter study found that content from right-wing politicians and right-leaning news outlets received a greater boost from its algorithm compared to left-leaning news outlets.
So even some fans of Musk suggested that he might be in over his head here.
And some critics said that some of Musk’s actions on Twitter suggested he would be putting his self interests ahead of First Amendment rights like freedom of speech.
“Leave Twitter” began trending with more than 172,000 tweets and counting, as those with active Twitter accounts, and some identifying as employees of the company, threatened to defect if Musk took over.
Others called on Musk to take the $41 billion he’d be using to buy Twitter to benefit the world in other ways — such as Musk’s recent claim that he would be willing to pay to end world hunger, which didn’t really pan out. And the big $41 billion figure being thrown around also stoked the wealth inequality debate.
There were also suggestions that Musk should start his own social media platform — or to take over Trump’s struggling Truth Social app — and some smaller social media companies like Gab even posted counteroffers for Musk to invest in their companies, instead.
This being social media, there were plenty of jokes and memes being passed around, of course, with many including Musk and the Dogecoin Shiba Inu. (Indeed, many supporters began musing whether a Musk-run Twitter would let them pay or tip in Dogecoin.)
While many users on WallStreetBets — a subreddit that popularized meme stocks Game Stop GME, +0.05% and Bed Bath and Beyond BBBY, -2.45% — were quick to joke about the purchase potential, there was some serious thought on what he was trying to do.
“The legal pump and dump,” wrote one user. “Buy stock. Stock soars. Big d— offer to buy entire company. Sell when offer rejected, and express that you no longer feel comfortable in your investment.”
Similarly, fellow billionaire Mark Cuban suggested that Musk is doing all this to mess with the SEC (bad language alert in this tweet).
After opening up, the company gave back most of its gains. As of 1 p.m., shares were up less than a dollar as compared to Wednesday’s close.