Elon Musk takes over Twitter, saying it will be "digital town square" not a "free-for-all"

Elon Musk posted a message on Twitter saying "the bird is freed" just before 9 p.m. in San Francisco Thursday. It came just minutes before the midnight deadline Friday in Delaware to close the Twitter deal.

The New York Stock Exchange notified investors that it was suspending trading in shares of Twitter before the opening bell Friday in anticipation of the company going private under Musk.

Musk started the day Thursday with a message on Twitter to advertisers, an apparent attempt to reassure companies and preserve Twitter's current revenue stream. Musk stated that "Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world."

Musk also said the reason he acquired Twitter is to have "a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner."

"There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society," Musk wrote.

Musk did not say how he envisions creating that town square on Twitter, however, which already has fractured echo chambers.

He also did not address how to moderate users who do incite violence, or give details on how content would be curated to avoid the spread of lies or misinformation.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation says those are critical issues.

"We're concerned there are risks to human rights and personal safety anytime any single person has complete unchecked control over policies affecting almost 400 million users," said Josh Richman, an EFF spokesman.

"I would love it if they brought their international guidelines here to the U.S.." said Chris Yip, a San Francisco Twitter user, "Overseas the hate speech is much more monitored. I guess other countries care more about that stuff."

Musk reportedly told employees during his visit Wednesday that he does not plan to layoff 75% of the 7,500 workers.

But on Thursday he did fire CEO Parag Agrawal, COO Ned Segal, legal and policy head Vijaya Gadde, and general counsel Sean Edgett.

"Twitter struggled to be a place that handled their moderation well in the first place, right? And if he's gonna cut any staff, I think this problem gets a million times worse," said Ian Sherr, CNET Editor at Large.

Employees say they were left in the dark, with no internal advance notice about Thursday's transition to Musk.

The company's only news release Thursday was from Twitter Latin America, which made an announcement about enhanced content curation efforts, stating "we’re expanding our efforts to identify and elevate credible information on Twitter."

"We would say better content is sorely needed. Less automation, more expert input into policies, more transparency and accountability overall," said Richman.

Businesses near the Twitter building are hoping the change in ownership might help their bottom lines.

Some say they are concerned about any cuts to the Twitter staffing, and they hope musk might bring more workers back to the office in person.

Many businesses downtown have suffered during the pandemic when employees were working from home.

"I would like it if there were more foot traffic in the area. Twitter is one of the big offices in the neighborhood, so more people coming into the office the better we do," said Patrick Glenn, a "beertender" at The Beer Hall across the street from Twitter.

Musk is expected to address employees Friday morning.