Elon Musk faced questions about how he will police content on Twitter as he took control of the social media company on Friday following a turbulent $44bn takeover.
With concerns already arising about how he will handle a sea of Twitter moderation issues, Musk promised to create a council with “widely diverse viewpoints”, and said that “no major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes”.
He later added: “To be super clear, we have not yet made any changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies.”
On Friday, Musk was accompanied at Twitter’s headquarters by his personal lawyer and trusted lieutenant Alex Spiro, who is focused on assessing legal and policy issues at the company, while Musk is evaluating how its engineering and product departments work, according to people familiar with the situation.
David Sacks, a venture capitalist and close associate of Musk, was also at the offices this week to support him, two people said. The New York Times first reported the visits.
But there were some signs of wariness. General Motors said it had “temporarily paused” paid advertising on the platform “as is normal course of business with a significant change in a media platform”, though it would continue to use the site to interact with customers. GM competes against Tesla, Musk’s electric vehicle company.
The US car manufacturer added that it was “engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership”.
The announcements came less than 24 hours after Musk, a self-declared “free speech absolutist”, closed the deal to take Twitter private for $54.20 a share late on Thursday.
Musk has previously said he wants to loosen content restrictions and repeal permanent bans, sparking fears among some advertisers, which account for the majority of Twitter’s $5bn in revenues, that the platform could become a hotbed of toxicity and abuse.
His moderation council announcement comes amid speculation that he might have moved to immediately allow high-profile, banned users to reactivate their accounts, including former US president Donald Trump. Twitter removed Trump’s account in January 2021 for tweets it deemed were “highly likely to encourage and inspire” followers to replicate the attack on the US Capitol.
In May, Musk told a Financial Times conference that banning Trump from the platform was a “mistake”. Trump’s supporters on Friday called on Musk to reactivate the former president’s account, using the hashtag #bringbacktrump.
Posting on his own platform Truth Social, Trump said he was “very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands”. He told Fox News that he was “staying on Truth” although he did not rule out a return to Twitter if allowed to do so.
Separately on Friday, responding to one user called Catturd who complained that they were “shadowbanned” on the platform — meaning their content is restricted from being shown to others without their knowledge — Musk wrote that he would be “digging in more today”.
Musk has already started his ownership of Twitter with characteristic bombast, firing top executives, including chief executive Parag Agrawal and head of safety Vijaya Gadde, and writing one-liners on the platform. “[T]he bird is freed,” he wrote hours after the deal closed, having already changed his public profile to “Chief Twit”.
Reopening the site to controversial speech was welcomed by right-leaning groups but raised concerns among others that it would result in a wave of hate, harassment, misinformation and extremism. It could also prompt a backlash from companies that Twitter depends on for advertising.
Musk addressed a tweet to “Twitter Advertisers” on Thursday, saying he wanted the site to resemble a “common digital town square” but not a “free-for-all hellscape”.
However, a small set of users took to the platform to share obscenities, which remained online.
Tesla has led the way in popularising electric vehicles, a path GM and other traditional carmakers are now spending billions to follow.
Neither Ford nor Stellantis, formed from the merger of PSA and Fiat Chrysler, could immediately be reached to comment on whether they,
too, will suspend advertising.
Twitter’s press team did not respond to any requests for comment on Friday.
Video: Elon Musk talks in a May interview with the FT about Twitter, Tesla and Trump