Apr 26, 2022 - Podcasts

Winners and losers of Elon’s Twitter takeover

Elon Musk is buying Twitter for 44 billion dollars. The deal was announced Monday afternoon, 11 days after Musk’s initial bid. It puts one of the world’s richest people atop the influential social media platform, and raises lots of new questions about Twitter’s future for users.

  • Plus, the U.S. says Russia is failing in Ukraine.

Guests: Axios' Ina Fried and Dave Lawler.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, April 26th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: the US says Russia is failing in Ukraine.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: the winners and losers of Elon’s Twitter takeover.

NIALA: Elon Musk is buying Twitter for $44 billion. The deal was announced Monday afternoon, 11 days after his initial bid. And it puts one of the world's richest people atop the influential social media platform, and raises tons of new questions about Twitter's future for users. Here with more is Axios’ chief technology correspondent, Ina Fried. Hey, Ina.

INA FRIED: Hey Niala.

NIALA: As soon as the Axios alert about the deal happened, I got a text from a listener asking, “Does this mean President Trump is going to be able to get back on Twitter?”

INA: Well, not immediately because the Twitter management is still in charge. The deal won't close until later this year. But I think that question is really emblematic of a series of questions that everyone is asking - what does this mean for Twitter the site? Is it going to be different than it is today? And depending on where you sit, that could be a very good thing or a very bad thing.

NIALA: So what changes has Elon Musk talked about saying he wants to do?

INA: So he's talked about things that are in his fields of interests. So more openness, as far as the algorithm. He's talked about open sourcing it. He's talked about more acceptance of cryptocurrency. He's obviously big into that. Um, but then most importantly, he's spoken about free speech and it's very interesting because people mean different things when they say free speech and we're not a hundred percent sure what Elon means and what he'll do. But there's a lot of concern that that means unmoderated speech which generally hasn't worked out very well on the internet.

NIALA: And when you think about the idea of unmoderated speech, what would this move mean for users of communities like people of color, LGBTQ+ people who've had an especially complicated relationship with all social media, not just Twitter?

INA: You know, I think there's a lot of concern. A lot of people are worried, especially in those groups about what it'll mean. Look, if you've been a woman on Twitter, if you've been a person of color and LGBTQ person, you've probably dealt with a ton of harassment, even with Twitter's policies. So the idea of rolling those back or limiting them is scary to a lot of people who have nonetheless come to rely on Twitter, either as their own source of information, as a way to share viewpoints, as a way to get an audience and a following.

And you know, on the other side of the coin, you know, I think people are saying “Everyone should have a right to speak. It's the town square.” And so there's sort of a question of whether free speech means everyone should have an equal opportunity to speak, everyone should be able to speak, but that doesn't mean you can say anything or everyone needs to be able to be heard, which does mean limiting hate speech and other things. So it really gets into this very nuanced notion of what is it we want as a society. And of course it all remains to be seen what, if any of this vision Elon actually is able to bring to Twitter, even if he does own it.

NIALA: At the end of the day, though, this still needs to be a business for him?

INA: It does. And I think that's where a lot of people think his grandest visions may not come to fore because when it comes to running a business, advertisers, for example, tend not to want a, you know, flaming free speech, anything goes environment because it's not good for brands. So there may be pressure on the business side, to the degree that he wants to run a good business, to have some of the very policies that he's decried.

NIALA: Okay, Ina, so it's the morning after this deal. How are you thinking about this and how should we be thinking about this?

INA: So, one of the first things I did was look at who's celebrating, who's mourning, who is looking for a new job because they work at Twitter, who's trying to get hired by the new Twitter. And so that I think gives a sense of at least where people think things are going. And I always would flag that we never know with Elon Musk, but certainly the people that are cheering are folks like Josh Hawley and other conservatives, Marsha Blackburn, and others in politics; Glenn Greenwald and some of the free speech promoters in that realm coming from the far-left, the far-right. I think where you're seeing a lot of the concern is among people of color, LGBTQ groups, women's groups that fear that their voices may be silenced through intimidation and harassment.

NIALA: Axios’ chief technology correspondent, Ina Fried. Thanks, Ina.

INA: Thanks Niala.

In a moment, we’re back with the latest in President Biden’s moves on Ukraine.

Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

NIALA: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that Vladimir Putin is “failing” in the war against Ukraine, following the first visit by high-level American officials to Kiev during this war. The White House has also announced it will soon reopen its Ukrainian embassy in the Capitol. Here to update us on the US involvement in the war between Russia and Ukraine is Axios’ world editor, Dave Lawler. Dave, what are your main takeaways from the US-Ukraine meeting that happened over the weekend and continued yesterday.

DAVE LAWLER: So part of this is it's a sign of how much more secure Kiev, the capital is, than it was a month or so ago. The fact that the US could send two of its most senior officials in there. And also the fact the State Department has said that they fully intend to quickly reopen the embassy in Kiev. That's a sign that the Ukrainians have successfully pushed the Russians away from the Capitol that the war has moved elsewhere. Uh, remarkably, the US has not had diplomats in the country for almost the entirety of this war. A lot of our allies have moved diplomats back in. The US has been slow to do that because of security concerns. So now they will be putting an ambassador in place when she's confirmed and they will have diplomats on the ground in the country.

NIALA: Right. So that's Bridget Brink, the White House announced President Biden will nominate her. Why isn't our diplomatic corps up to what it should be?

DAVE: There's a couple of reasons for that. The Biden folks would say that they haven't been able to get all of their nominees through, that it's been going slowly through the Senate, thanks to some Republican opposition. The other side would say that they haven't been quick to nominate these folks. This is the first time we've had a nominee under Biden for this position in Ukraine. And over time we've had more and more vacancies in key roles. So this is something that people who are in the foreign policy space have been looking at for a long time as something that really does need to be streamlined. Because it sends the wrong signals to countries that we're trying to partner with if we don't actually have an ambassador on the ground inside of them. And Ukraine is an obvious example of that.

NIALA: There is a meeting of allies in Germany today that the US has organized. What's the goal here?

DAVE: So the Pentagon says that part of this is to figure out who can offer what, in terms of helping to arm the Ukrainians. Uh, the US has been, you know, continuously announcing shipments at the moment of artillery and drones. Those are two things the US can fulfill. But Ukraine has other needs in terms of air defense systems. You know, they, they need spare parts for various Soviet-era weaponry they have. And so, uh, there were other countries in Europe who can fill those needs more quickly. There is so much urgency to getting this stuff to the front lines now, while there's an opportunity to get it in and as this battle in the Donbas in the east of Ukraine is heating up.

NIALA: Axios’ Dave Lawler who's the host of this most recent season of the ‘How it Happened’ podcast, which is a deeper look at this war. If you want to check that out. Thanks, Dave.

DAVE: Thanks Niala.

People of color are buying guns at higher rates than ever before in the U.S. Tomorrow on the show we’ll dig into the reasons. And we want to hear from you – especially if you’re a person of color who’s recently purchased a firearm – or thought about it? Why? Tell us by sending in a brief voicememo with your story – you can text it to (202) 918-4893.

And finally: one small ray of hope before you go today. A litter of six endangered red wolf pups was born in North Carolina recently – the first time a littler was born in the wild in four years. The Red Wolf Recovery Program said this meant renewed hope for survival of a species which has been near extinction. You can read more at the link in our show notes.

That’s all we’ve got for you today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper