The Atlantic Daily: Three Possible Futures for a Musk-Owned Twitter

Elon Musk has bought Twitter. It may not make him—or the platform’s users—happy.

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The platform everyone loves to hate has a brand-new owner: Elon Musk is officially buying Twitter for approximately $44 billion.

Musk has a long and rocky history with Twitter—or tweeting, at least. Take his offer to buy the platform at $54.20 a share: It’s a not-so-subtle reference to when he claimed to be taking Tesla public at $420 a share on—where else—Twitter, and earned himself a consent decree from the Securities and Exchange Commission in the process. Musk has also used the platform to spread misinformation about COVID and feud with journalists.

The question now is, what will Musk do with Twitter when he owns it? Our writers offer some theories.

  • Musk might be in for a shock. Evelyn Douek, an internet researcher, argues that content moderation might be a problem that’s too hard to solve, even for the man who got rockets to land upright. “If Musk has a utopian vision of a libertarian internet, he should read about the history of content moderation,” Douek writes.
  • An Elon-owned Twitter could go one of three ways. In the worst version of the future, Charlie Warzel writes in his newsletter, Galaxy Brain, Musk could use the platform to push an extreme right-wing agenda. In the weirdest, he might attempt “lots of quick building, throwing shit at the wall, with very little consideration of the consequences.” But the most likely scenario, Charlie writes, is a return to the minimally moderated, harassment-heavy 2016 version of Twitter—including @RealDonaldTrump.

Further reading: “What Musk and others portray as a battle over ‘free speech’ is a proxy fight over who is entitled to attention,” Renée DiResta, of the Stanford Internet Observatory, wrote earlier this month.

The rest of the news in three sentences:

  1. Donald Trump is being held in civil contempt in New York after failing to comply with a subpoena.
  2. A wildfire in Nebraska killed a former fire chief; huge swaths of Arizona and New Mexico are burning too.
  3. At a press conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that the United States wanted to see the Russian military “weakened.”

Latest dispatches: Conor Friedersdorf recently asked his readers: If you had $1 billion to improve the world, how would you spend it? In his latest Up for Debate, he shared their answers. And in Work in Progress, Derek Thompson investigates whether America’s biggest cities are shrinking, or booming.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity: Collaborate on a chore. Different-sex couples who do are more satisfied with their relationship than couples who divvy chores up, my colleague Joe Pinsker reports.

A break from the news: The world’s most exclusive bacon isn’t for sale.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.