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Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover: what will change, is free speech at risk and should you delete the app?

Billionaire’s buyout of social media company reignites debate about leaving the platform but is it too soon to act – and where could you go?
Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover: what will change, is free speech at risk and should you delete the app?

Billionaire’s buyout of social media company reignites debate about leaving the platform but is it too soon to act – and where could you go?

The Twitter icon is displayed outside the company's corporate office in New York, New York, USA, April 21, 2022.

Elon Musk’s $44bn takeover of Twitter and his promises to revamp the social media platform have reignited debate about whether it’s time to leave the website permanently. But is that too hasty? How do you leave? And where would you go?

Why are people considering leaving?

It seems every few months there’s a wave of people announcing they are quitting Twitter. Some do it permanently, while others make the big announcement only to return weeks or months later.

The latest push has come in response to Musk’s purchase of the platform, with some concerned it will allow misinformation, disinformation, abuse and hate speech to flourish on the website more than it already does. Musk has suggested he is a “free speech absolutist”.

There has been speculation over who and what will be allowed back on Twitter, including whether former US president Donald Trump will return to the platform, although he has already hosed down that talk.

Australian lobby group Digital Rights Watch has expressed concern that while Musk claims the takeover is about free speech, it’s actually about power.

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“While free speech is important, you have to account for asymmetries of power and other barriers that stop people from speaking freely,” chair Lizzie O’Shea said.

“Musk’s style of free speech absolutism will tilt the scales in favour of the rich and powerful who can silence or bully critics. What Musk really seems to want is freedom from accountability.

“Musk’s proposed approach to content moderation will likely make Twitter a less safe place for many people to speak freely while allowing powerful disinformation and propaganda campaigns to spread unchecked.”

Electronic Frontiers Foundation said any move away from allowing anonymous accounts on the platform would have the effect of reducing free speech.

“Pseudonymity and anonymity are essential to protecting users who may have opinions, identities, or interests that do not align with those in power,” EFF said.

“Political dissidents may be in grave danger if those in power are able to discover their true identities.”

Who is in charge now?

Twitter is currently listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Aside from Musk, who had a stake of just under 10% before this deal, the major shareholders were largely investment firms.

The Twitter board includes the current chief executive, Parag Agrawal, the former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey, and Salesforce’s co-CEO Bret Taylor as chair.

Is it too soon for people to leave?

It is a dramatic response when so much is unknown about what Musk intends to do with the service. If you’ve stuck with what many people call “the hell site” for this long, it’s questionable whether Musk taking it over will be some sort of final straw.

What has Musk said he will do?

Apart from some general tweets around defeating spam bots, having human authentication, an edit button, open-source algorithms and what he says will be free speech, we don’t know yet what Musk plans to do with Twitter.

How do I deactivate my account if I want to?

If you’re set on leaving Twitter, you can first deactivate your account for 30 days before it is permanently deleted.

The easiest way to do that is through the “Settings and privacy” tab in the menu of the Twitter app. Go to “Your account” and then “Deactivate your account”.

If you go via the Twitter website, you follow the same prompts from the “More” tab.

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If you don’t log back into your account within 30 days, your account is permanently deleted, and people can register an account with your username from that time.

What data does Twitter still hold on me?

The Guardian asked Twitter what data was retained once a user permanently deletes their account. A spokesperson pointed to the company’s privacy page, which details what data is kept on active users, but does not outline what is retained once an account is deleted.

If you want to keep a record of your tweets and other activity on Twitter, you can download your archive from Twitter before you deactivate your account.

Where else can I go?

It really comes down to why you used Twitter in the first place. If it is just for breaking news, then you might want to sign up to push alerts from media companies or through the various news apps on your phone.

There’s always Reddit, where you can find subreddits devoted to topics and communities you’re interested in.

An open source version of Twitter, called Mastodon, is often touted as an alternative, but it is much more fragmented, with people signing up for specific topics or communities.

The main problem Twitter replicas have had is reaching the scale of Twitter – more than 200 million users – so it’s hard to say whether anyone leaving will find something that is the ideal replacement. It’s partially why Musk might have been motivated to buy Twitter rather than starting his own social media site, like others, including Trump, have attempted.

Topics
  • Twitter
  • Social media
  • Elon Musk
  • Internet
  • explainers
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