Five big changes Elon Musk could be planning for Twitter

After months of legal battles which nearly ended with a trial, Elon Musk is now in control of Twitter after finally completing the $44 billion deal.

The world’s richest man first offered to buy the influential social media platform in April, claiming he wanted to release its “extraordinary potential” to promote free speech and democracy globally.

In a sign of Musk’s frosty relationship with Twitter, the company announced a mechanism to prevent a hostile takeover, but by the end of the month a deal was reached with the Tesla and SpaceX CEO.

The billionaire said he wanted to back out just weeks later, citing concerns over the number of bot accounts on the site, which led to accusations of a “material breach” of the agreement.

Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the deal, prompting the mogul to countersue the platform over claims it deliberately miscalculated its number of spam accounts.

After plenty of back and forth, Musk eventually agreed in early October to buy Twitter at the originally agreed price, and closed the deal on Friday, giving himself the title of “Chief Twit” in his profile.

Less than a week into his new role, Musk already has some big plans for the site – here are some of the changes he’s reported to be making.

Charging verified users to keep blue ticks

Twitter’s new boss is considering charging users $20 per month, or $240 a year, for their profile to have a coveted blue tick.

According to technology newsletter Platformer, the charge will also apply to users who already have the tick, which is used as a way of verifying an account of public interest.

To keep it, users may have to subscribe to Twitter Blue, ​​a monthly subscription – available in a select few countries not including the UK - that gives exclusive access to premium features, which currently costs $4.99 per month but could go up to $20.

Elon Musk has taken to referring to himself as the 'Chief Twit'. (Getty)
Elon Musk has taken to referring to himself as the 'Chief Twit'. (Getty)

Even wealthy celebrities might not think it’s worth the fee, including celebrated novelist Stephen King, who tweeted: “$20 a month to keep my blue check? F**k that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.”

Replying directly to the post, Musk wrote: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?”

He added: “I will explain the rationale in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat the bots & trolls.”

Twitter has not commented on the plans, but Musk responded to questions from users on the platform about verification by saying that the “whole verification process is being revamped right now”.

Film-style age rating filters

In an exchange with one user, Musk hinted that one way of moderating content on the site could involve users selecting a film-style age rating to filter content.

“Being able to select which version of Twitter you want is probably better, much as it would be for a movie maturity rating,” he said.

“The rating of the tweet itself could be self-selected, then modified by user feedback.”

Elon Musk speaking at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 event in Stavanger, Norway in August. (Getty)
Elon Musk speaking at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 event in Stavanger, Norway in August. (Getty)

Despite describing himself as a “free speech absolutist”, Musk told advertisers that he did not want Twitter to become a "free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences”.

He added: “In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.”

The everything app

When Musk confirmed he would go ahead with the deal, he said buying Twitter was “an accelerant” to creating an “everything app”.

By this, the billionaire means a single place where users can access most, if not all, of their favourite online services and utilities.

A similar app already exists in China, WeChat, which started life as a messaging platform like WhatsApp before crowing into a mini-internet within a single app.

It allows users to do everything from sharing social media posts, catching up on news, making mobile payments, booking restaurants and ordering taxis.

Musk remarked on how nothing like WeChat exists in the West, describing the app as “kickass”, although critics have said it has served as an effective surveillance tool for the Chinese government.

Some experts have questioned Musk’s ability to create such an app in a western market, despite his vast wealth and experience.

Bringing back banned accounts?

On 10 May, during his rocky negotiations with Twitter, Musk said he would reverse the platform’s ban on Donald Trump, who was removed in January 2021 in the wake of the Capitol Riots.

At the time, he said banning the former president was “was a morally bad decision and foolish in the extreme.”

Musk hasn’t given away too much since becoming CEO, tweeting: “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if Trump is coming back on this platform, Twitter would be minting money!”

But there is a good chance that some banned accounts will be brought back, as the mogul said on Friday that a content moderation council would be created to address this issue.

BEDMINSTER, NJ - JULYFormer US President Donald Trump had his Twitter account shut down in January 2021. (Getty) 7: Former President Donald J. Trump speaks about filing a class-action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Google and Twitter and their CEOs, escalating his long-running battle with the companies following their suspensions of his accounts, during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club on Wednesday, July 07, 2021 in Bedminster, NJ. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former US President Donald Trump had his Twitter account shut down in January 2021. (Getty)

He said no “major” content or reinstatement decisions would be made before the council had convened.

Musk has talked in length about his concerns of a left-wing political bias at Twitter and says he wants to protect the platform from censorship.

But it remains to be seen how his mission to create a “common digital town square” will clash with hate speech laws in various countries.

Twitter could face significant issues once the Online Safety Bill comes into effect in the UK, which would require platforms not just to take down any illegal content but also any topics designated “legal but harmful”, which is likely to be content linked to abuse or harassment, among other things.

Advertisers too are unlikely to be happy about the possibility of their adverts appearing alongside increasingly controversial content.

A mass exodus of executives

As Musk spent months publicly criticising Twitter and describing it as “bloated”, many employees understandably feared for their futures in the event of a takeover.

“Twitter’s future is bleak without an engaged employee base and there’s a lot of repair work to be done there,” industry analyst Mike Proulx said earlier this month.

Twitter's headquarters are in San Francisco, California. (Getty)
Twitter's headquarters are in San Francisco, California. (Getty)

In a bid to ease concerns during a visit to Twitter’s head office just before the takeover was completed, Musk reportedly told staff that reports of him planning to cut 75% of the workforce were not true.

But has already dissolved the company’s entire board of directors, making him the sole director of Twitter.

This has already caused alarm among some online safety campaigners, who have warned that shifting Twitter’s policy on safety and free speech with no executives to hold him back could make the platform more dangerous.

Others have suggested the internal turmoil during Musk’s restructuring could make the platform more vulnerable to hackers.