Now that billionaire Elon Musk appears to have the green light to buy Twitter for $44 billion, there's a lot of chatter about what the sale will mean for the social media platform's future.
Musk is making noise about free speech online and how the company has not been living up to its potential. As a self-proclaimed "free speech absolutist," Musk has been critical of Twitter's picking and choosing which posts get deleted or otherwise censored. His involvement is welcomed by those accusing the platform of censorship while making its defenders uneasy.
With around 200 million users worldwide, the deal could re-shape social media. "Twitter has become kind of a de facto town square," said Musk.
If the deal is approved, he plans to take the company private. "My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization," he said.
Twitter founder and ex-CEO Jack Dorsey seems happy, writing, "Taking it back from Wall Street is the first correct step."
The platform has been a political battleground for years, accused of taking partisan action against various subjects and discussions including medical information and even spiritual thoughts.
Pastor Dave Scarlett saw his ministry's account banned after posting a Good Friday tweet showing Jesus on the Cross that said, "It is finished." It was then retweeted by rapper MC Hammer to his massive following.
"It went absolutely viral and they literally within an hour took it down, without any reason, any strikes, any warning. We were just done," said Scarlett. He says the account has now been restored.
Just last week, a new report from Media Research Center highlighted more than 646 instances where people who criticized President Biden on Twitter or Facebook had comments deleted or accounts banned.
Critics say Twitter goes after Republicans far more than Democrats. "Twitter and Facebook censor Republican members of Congress at a rate of 53 to 1 compared to Democrats. Twitter suspends conservatives 21 times more often than liberals," said Kara Frederick of Heritage Foundation.
While Musk could reopen the door to President Trump's banned Twitter account, the former commander in chief says he won't return.
Under his leadership, Musk is promising transparency, a public algorithm, and to restore banned accounts. "We don't know why people are being banned. We don't know why people are being shadow-banned. What Elon wants to do in pursuit of free speech is make these things open. We're going to have Twitter be open-sourced," said Matt Dearden of Cedarville University.
While conservatives have been happy with Musk's takeover, many in the establishment media have been highly critical, questioning Musk's agenda for the influential company. NBC News Tech Correspondent Jake Ward said on MSNBC, "It's not at all clear here, Stephanie, that his incredible popularity on Twitter, right - he has over 80 million followers - in any qualifies him or prepares him to run the party."
But the billionaire genius seems confident that he's just the right candidate to start eliminating the censorship problem.
For example, many conservatives blasted Twitter in 2020 for silencing certain political views, including the New York Post's now-verified report on Hunter Biden's laptop that could have had a direct impact on the presidential election. Musk jumped in this week to criticize Twitter's heavy-handed approach to that report, tweeting, "Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate."
Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2022
Skeptics on the left are now threatening to leave Twitter as Musk prepares to take the helm. Bloomberg Opinion writer Tim O'Brien complained about Musk's exercise of his own free speech rights in the past, saying, "He's routinely over the years tried to shut down his critics, silence them, he's used Twitter to savage them."
But after Twitter approved his offer, Musk himself tweeted, "I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means."
Musk's purchase still needs to be finalized, which could take several months.