Before Musk bought Twitter, he was known for founding and leading some of the most valuable companies in the world; He is a co-founder of PayPal, founder of SpaceX, and CEO of Tesla. So, when Musk first announced that he would purchase Twitter, there was no shortage of opinions and expectations. According to an April 2022 poll by YouGov, 30% of the surveyed thought it would improve the platform, and 24% thought it would be bad or dangerous. Conversely, 42% thought there would be no change. The same poll was issued in December 2022 and the results showed that not much had changed: 34% believed the platform was better, 29% thought it was worse, and 37% were still unsure what to think.
At Hopkins, students shared similar feelings. “I thought he would be better than he [has been],” said Laila Samuel ’23. “He has really surpassed my expectations in how weak his leadership would be.” Rain Zeng ’25 had low expectations when they first heard the news of Musk’s leadership: “I was surprised but not surprised. I expected absolute hell and worse; Musk has delivered.”
Before he took control, Musk avidly criticized Twitter’s free speech principles. On October 27, the day Musk completed his purchase of Twitter, he tweeted, “It is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence.” A day later, Musk tweeted, then quickly deleted, an anti-LGBTQ+ conspiracy theory regarding the Paul Pelosi attack. This tweet received 24,000 retweets and 86,000 likes before Musk took it down. ABC News reported that the tweet spurred far-right figures to test Musk’s free speech policies.
Since Musk assumed control of Twitter, the app has experienced spikes in hate speech and slurs. This December, data compiled by the New York Times showed that Twitter had over a 200% increase in slurs against Black Americans, a 61% increase in anti-Semitic posts, and a 58% increase in slurs against gay men. The Institute of Strategic Dialogue found that “In the first 12 days after Mr. Musk assumed control, 450 accounts associated with ISIS were created, up 69% from the previous 12 days.”
Before Musk became CEO, 90% of Hopkins students hadn’t run into problems with Twitter; recently, however, some students have noticed the changes to their own experience on the platform. According to Zeng, “I feel like I have less power to report the perpetrators and consequently I feel less safe online. I feel like it makes room for more violent and extremist beliefs, room that we really don’t need in today’s political climate.” James O’Dowd ’25 noted that while there are “special cases” where speech censorship plays a role, “no matter how good or bad someone thinks your ideas are, you should still be able to post or share those ideas with the general public”
Twitter’s new leadership and its corresponding policies have caused some student to worry for the future. Chris Hwa ’24 said, “Elon Musk is a terrible human being who was previously glorified by internet edge-lords on various social media platforms. He is now revealing his true colors that many people overlooked before. He is an unhinged man with too much power, and he both gained that power through corruption and was corrupted by the power.” O’Dowd said, “I think that he is a good entrepreneur, as he has kick started two multi-billion dollar companies.” Nevertheless, according to O’Dowd, Musk’s “use of his hard-earned money seems somewhat wasteful.”