Marc Andreessen, general partner of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, shared a screenshot of the story on Twitter, prompting a response from Musk.
“My Shadow Crew is sickkk! Also, who are they again?” Musk wrote on Twitter.
“Sell Shadow Crew merch to buy Twitter?” Musk later asked in the same thread.
Musk has been highly critical of Twitter’s content moderation policies for months. He has taken to the social media platform to lambast the company’s performance, from censorship claims to shadow bans. At the end of March 2022, Musk polled his followers: “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”
Most respondents replied, “No.”
The Wall Street Journal report claimed that many people had nudged the Tesla Motors CEO to get involved in the struggling tech firm. The newspaper referred to this group as a “shadow crew” that included Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, billionaire investor Peter Thiel, entrepreneur David Sacks, and early Tesla investor and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson. Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk, also advocated for Musk to purchase a stake in the microblogging website, the report claims.
Musk declined to be interviewed for the story, and The Wall Street Journal admitted early in its report that “it isn’t clear whether he took any of their advice to heart or merely followed his own gut,” referring to Musk and the alleged “shadow crew.”
In March 2022, according to the article, Musk contacted Seth Dillon, the CEO of conservative satirical news outlet The Babylon Bee.
Musk had inquired to determine if the publication had been suspended from Twitter following a tweet that referred to the U.S. assistant secretary for health, a transgender woman, as “Man of the Year.” Musk had reportedly quipped to Dillon that he might need to purchase Twitter.
Musk had ostensibly kept his decision close to the chest up until the day before his intentions were revealed.
“Over dinner in a private dining room at a local restaurant, Mr. Musk didn’t show much interest in talking about Twitter, one attendee said. Instead, he asked those at the table to share their theories about the meaning of life,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “The next day, Mr. Musk disclosed that he was seeking to take over Twitter.”
There is a discussion in the public town square of what Musk means by free speech.
Musk restated his views on free speech in an April 26 tweet.
“By ‘free speech’, [sic] I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people,” Musk wrote.
The Response to Free Speech on Twitter
The reaction to Musk acquiring Twitter has been mixed, with both sides either cheering or jeering. In the aftermath of Musk’s Twitter takeover, the company identified fluctuations in follower counts that included mass deactivations, reactivations, and new account creations.
On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers have congratulated Musk.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) labeled it as “the most important development for free speech in decades.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) requested that Musk urge the San Francisco-based company to probe into internal efforts to suspend users and downrank stories pertaining to Hunter Biden’s laptop.
“The left doesn’t want you to speak. If you don’t agree with them, you’re not allowed to talk,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “That all changes today with Elon Musk owning Twitter.”
Some Democrats are mulling over hearings on Musk’s plans for Twitter, citing the website’s role in public discourse.
While there is no official announcement on any hearings, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, revealed to BNN Bloomberg that “we’re thinking about it.”
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce Committee, said a hearing with Musk was crucial.
“It’s a technology which is central to democracy and our economy and it is important for the representatives of the American people to hear what the new owners intend on using that technology to accomplish,” he told BNN Bloomberg. “We have to understand the censorship or lack thereof, content moderation or not, that is going to be the policy for the new owner.”
“In terms of what the values are that this company is going to be creating for the new Elon Musk Twitter world, I think that’s actually a necessary role for Congress to play,” Markey added.
In response to a series of tweets about the ideological shift in U.S. politics, Musk acknowledged his support for former President Barack Obama.
“I strongly supported Obama for President, but today’s Democratic Party has been hijacked by extremists,” he wrote.
Musk has also complained about the far left and far right, urging “less hate and more love.”
A plurality of Americans agrees that Musk’s Twitter takeover “will lead to greater free speech on the platform.”
According to a new Ipsos poll (pdf), 39 percent of overall Twitter users believe Musk will improve the platform. Twenty-eight percent of nonusers say he will enhance the website.
Among heavy users, 52 percent think Musk’s involvement will improve the quality of dialogue, while 29 percent believe it will get worse.
Seventy-three percent of all survey participants support removing posts that are considered false information. But there is a divergence on deleting political posts: 47 percent support taking down tweets that champion political action, and 40 percent are against the practice.
“Compared with our survey results in early April, views toward the role of social media platforms in removing certain types of content remain unchanged,” the polling firm wrote.
Elon Musk’s agreement with Twitter has not been finalized and could take several months to close. Both sides could still abandon the deal, paying a $1 billion termination fee.