“The bird is free,” Tweeted Elon Musk after acquiring ownership of Twitter on Oct. 27 for $44 billion.  

Immediately after the news broke, the Network Contagion Research Institute, a research group that analyzes social media content to predict emerging threats, said that the use of the N-word on Twitter increased by nearly 500% in the first 12 hours as trolls tested the limits of free speech on the platform.  

At the time of the announcement, Musk said he had not made any changes to the current terms of service, leaving the accounts liable for a ban.  

“Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square,” Musk said during his TED Talk in April 2022. “So it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”  

Musk has since brought in a host of new changes to the platform, the biggest being a change in Twitter’s verification system. 

Being verified on Twitter was a way for public figures and content creatures to confirm their credibility. In the past if an account was verified as belonging to the person they claimed to be, they would have a blue check mark next to their username.  

Musk changed this policy so that users can now buy a checkmark for $8 a month, but already verified accounts will retain their status.

“Widespread verification will democratize journalism & empower the voice of the people,” Musk Tweeted. “Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That’s our mission.”  

Media professor Tyler Curran said Twitter having a role of a public forum while commercializing it at the same time goes against the idea of free speech that Musk is pushing.  

“As it exists pre-Musk is a social form where a lot of different subcultures could converge and have an open dialogue.” Media lab instructor Taylor Sly said. “The real currency of social media is attention and retention; with this decision we’re seeing a mass exodus as people move to other platforms.”  

In protest to several of these changes, users began making parody accounts of famous brands and tweeting false information and inflammatory statements. 

“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk Tweeted. “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.” 

Musk has also laid off several employees of Twitter following the deal. He Tweeted,  “Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately, there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.”  

Since the recent purchase, several advertisers and brands such as Audi and General Mills have momentarily suspended their activity on the app as they continue to evaluate the situation. 

Twitter paused its paid verification on Nov. 11. 

On Nov. 17, Twitter’s HQ offices closed due to a high number of employees quitting, saying they would not be open until the following Monday. 

Follow Shane Sansom on Twitter, @shanesansom2

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