Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter & the future of the platform

April 14, 2022

~ 5 minutes read

What happened: On Thursday, Elon Musk offered to buy all Twitter stock at $54.20 a share — or roughly $43 billion — and take the company private.

Context: Musk bought over 9% of Twitter on April 4. 

The divide: Some celebrate Musk’s potential purchase as a victory for free speech, and others mourn it as a loss in the fight against misinformation.

Why we see it differently: We disagree about whether certain ideas should be moderated on social media because we ultimately disagree about what ideas should be considered legitimate, and which should be deemed dangerous.

Understanding why someone else might see this issue differently can help us have more productive conversations, and makes us much less likely to dehumanize those who disagree with us. That’s why we dug into the most retweeted tweets in the conversation to understand what positions resonate with people the most, and why.

Key dividing questions

What would the effect of Musk's changes be?

Musk has spoken out against Twitter’s content moderation policies — he believes they do too much of it. So many assume that if he were to take control of the company, he would make content moderation more lax. But people disagree about what less content moderation would lead to.

To those who oppose Musk’s potential purchase, his changes would permit the spread of misinformation.

To those who support Musk’s potential purchase, his changes would promote free speech and limit censorship.

What is the role of content moderation on platforms like Twitter?

Some content moderation, like removing child pornography, is widely seen as a social good. But other content moderation, like removing information the platform perceives as false, is more divisive, because one man’s misinformation is another’s political reality. 

So where should platforms draw the line between moderatable content and legitimate debate? Many agree that platforms are currently failing to find a balance, but disagree about what changes need to be made.

To some, too much misinformation already goes unmoderated.

When false information spreads, we start living in different realities with different sets of facts, and our democracy becomes weaker.

The spread of false information can hurt our ability to address important issues. If we allow it to run rampant, we will not be able to act when a crisis arises.

To others, too many legitimate beliefs are being censored.

When legitimate beliefs are censored, we close ourselves off to important debate and ideas, and our democracy becomes weaker.

Free debate means hearing ideas that challenge our own. If we refuse to consider new ideas, even if some ultimately turn out to be false, we lose out on important insights.

Also: Should billionaires have control over social media?

While most of the conversation about Musk’s potential purchase surrounded free speech, some people focused on the role of billionaires in today’s society.

  • To some, Musk’s bid for Twitter represents the excessive power billionaires have over social media institutions.
  • To others, concerns about billionaire control over social media in particular are misdirected, since traditional media companies are owned by billionaires as well. 
  • To others, the existence of both billionaires that can buy a massive company like Twitter in cash and poverty so extreme people face starvation is the more important issue.


One of the positions we described might stick out to you as obviously true (or at least more true than the others). The question remains: How can two people read the same information and come away with such different opinions about it

Our experiences, background, and existing worldview all affect how we interpret news events. Here’s an example:

  • If you’ve mostly seen tweets sharing information you see as true get taken down, you’re probably less likely to trust tech companies to accurately moderate discussion.
  • If you’ve mostly seen tweets sharing information you see as false get taken down, you’re probably more likely to trust tech companies to accurately moderate discussion. 
  • If you’re not very active on social media, you’re probably not going to view Musk’s potential purchase as very important.

With these differences in experience in mind, it’s easier to see why we see Elon Musk’s potential purchase of Twitter so differently even when we look at the same set of facts.

Further reading

Looking for reporting on this?  Check out AllSides’ headline roundup for a collection of articles on the topic from media outlets across the political spectrum.

Curious about the tweets we analyzed?  Here’s a link to the spreadsheet we used.

What do you think? Do you agree with one side, or do you fall somewhere in between? Give us feedback on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, or by emailing info@narrativesproject.com.