Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has given rise to questions about “democracy” and “free speech” on the platform. Among those concerned are celebrities, many of whom have announced they are leaving Twitter as Musk consolidates his hold on the social media giant.
Musk completed his Twitter deal on 27 October and immediately fired four top executives — the company’s Indian-origin CEO, Parag Agrawal; its head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde, CFO Ned Segal; and Twitter’s general counsel, Sean Edgett.
He subsequently tweeted, “The bird is freed,” in an apparent reference to unfounded accusations that the platform was biased towards a particular ideology.
What has happened at Twitter since Musk took over?
According to The Wall Street Journal, Twitter said in a securities filing on 31 October that Musk has fired the entire board of the company and has become its sole director.
Moreover, Musk announced that Twitter will begin charging US $8 per month for the blue tick — the coveted symbol that identifies accounts of repute and reliability.
Several reputed media houses and rights activists have been expressing serious concerns about the rise in hate speech and violence because of Musk’s apparently unfettered understanding of his version of “free speech.”
Many prominent celebrities have announced they are quitting Twitter. Some others have already followed up on their decision. However, not all are on board. Some celebrities believe that it is important to continue on the platform to prevent it from becoming a “right-wing” mouthpiece.
A running list of celebrities who are either leaving or have quit Twitter
Olin is best known for starring in Thirtysomething (1987–1991) and producing This Is Us (2016–2022). He was one of the earliest celebrities to announce their decision to quit Twitter after Musk gained ownership of the platform.
In a tweet posted on 28 October, the day after Musk completed his Twitter ownership, Olin urged his followers to “protect our democracy.” However, he did not name the billionaire in the tweet.
“Hey all – I’m out of here. No judgement. Let’s keep the faith. Let’s protect our democracy. Let’s try to be kinder. Let’s try to save the planet. Let’s try to be more generous. Let’s look to find peace in the world,” he wrote along with a blue heart emoji.
Hey all –
I’m out of here. No judgement.
Let’s keep the faith.
Let’s protect our democracy.
Let’s try to be kinder.
Let’s try to save the planet.
Let’s try to be more generous.
Let’s look to find peace in the world.
— Ken Olin (@kenolin1) October 28, 2022
Singer-songwriter Braxton is a seven-time Grammy Award winner. She, too, was one of the first celebrities to announce their decision to leave Twitter underlining that hate speech has spiked since Musk acquired Twitter.
“I’m shocked and appalled at some of the “free speech” I’ve seen on this platform since its acquisition. Hate speech under the veil of “free speech” is unacceptable; therefore I am choosing to stay off Twitter as it is no longer a safe space for myself, my sons and other POC,” Braxton wrote in a tweet.
I’m shocked and appalled at some of the “free speech” I’ve seen on this platform since its acquisition. Hate speech under the veil of “free speech” is unacceptable; therefore I am choosing to stay off Twitter as it is no longer a safe space for myself, my sons and other POC.
— Toni Braxton (@tonibraxton) October 29, 2022
The Grey’s Anatomy (2005–) creator and acclaimed producer was also among the first to announce her decision to remove herself from Twitter.
“Not hanging around for whatever Elon has planned. Bye,” Rhimes tweeted.
Not hanging around for whatever Elon has planned. Bye.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) October 29, 2022
Grammy-award winner Sara Bareilles has close to 3 million followers on Twitter. On 30 October, she tweeted: “Welp. It’s been fun Twitter. I’m out. See you on other platforms, peeps. Sorry, this one’s just not for me.”
Welp. It’s been fun Twitter. I’m out. See you on other platforms, peeps. Sorry, this one’s just not for me. ❤️🙏🏼
— Sara Bareilles (@SaraBareilles) October 30, 2022
The co-creator of shows such as Billions (2016–) and Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber (2022–) reportedly put out a tweet reading: “Y’all’s, for real, come find me over on instagram and the tok. Gonna really try to take a breather from here for a minute or a month come deal close time.”
Koppelman then protected his account, which means that only his followers will be able to see his tweets.
Before announcing his decision, Koppelman had, in a tweet referring to Musk, indicated he would take the step.
“I can see the logic in taking a long twitter hiatus when EM takes it over,” the tweet reportedly read.
Winter played Bill in the Bill & Ted film trilogy alongside Keanu Reeves. He quit Twitter after taking a jibe at Musk with a meme. According to reports, the meme depicted Musk as one of the Three Musketeers, alongside Kanye West and former US President Donald Trump.
Before removing himself from the platform, he had reportedly made it private, scrubbed his Twitter history and left a Linktree address.
“Elon Musk taking over Twitter and making it a private company with less oversight has immediately made the platform more prone to hate speech, targeted attacks, and the spread of disinformation,” Winter said in an email to NBC, adding, “If Twitter returns to being a public company run by rational actors, many of us will return.”
Winter continued his opposition to Musk owning Twitter on his official Instagram account. He posted a tweet by Musk reading, “Comedy is now legal on Twitter.”
His own caption to that post reads, “RIP Twitter.”
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Larsen, who is the chief financial officer for Image Comics, is best known as the creator of The Amazing Spider-Man comic books for Marvel.
Back in April when Musk announced his decision to buy Twitter, Larsen had reportedly tweeted: “The day Elon Musk buys Twitter is the day I delete my account and leave Twitter.”
His account now appears to have been deactivated.
“Yeah, I left. I said I would leave if Musk bought Twitter. Musk bought Twitter,” he told NBC in an email.
“So, I had no choice. The move only emboldened those most toxic users. The racists, ‘patriots’ and creeps are back in full force. I have no regrets,” he added.
The Madam Secretary (2014-2019) actor also appears to have removed herself from Twitter after announcing her decision to quit via a tweet on 29 October.
“Hi everyone. I’m coming off Twitter today—let’s see where we are when the dust settles. Today the dust has revealed too much hate, too much in the wrong direction. Love, kindness, and possibilities for all of you, thank you, xoxtéa,” she wrote in the tweet.
Best known for playing Counselor Deanna Troi in several movies and shows of the Star Trek franchise, including Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), Sirtis left Twitter after Musk took control of the platform.
“If I needed confirmation that leaving Twitter was the right move, Musk’s tweet about the attack on Paul Pelosi (which he later deleted) and the avalanche of hate that I received when I announced I was leaving, reinforced my decision,” Sirtis said in an email issued by her publicist to NBC.
Sirtis had previously stated her intentions of leaving Twitter while mentioning Musk.
“I’m sorry but I cannot be a part of anything owned by #ELONMUSK and his cabal of deplorable’s. I’ll stay on for a couple of days so that we can say goodbye but after that I’m gone,” she wrote in a tweet on 28 October.
Celebrities urging others to stay on
Director and activist Rob Reiner was among the celebrities who have not left Twitter despite expressing their concerns.
“For those who are fighting to preserve our Constitutional Democracy, now is not the time to leave Twitter. Now is the time to VOTE BLUE!” Reiner tweeted, urging his followers to vote for the Democratic Party in the upcoming midterm elections.
For those who are fighting to preserve our Constitutional Democracy, now is not the time to leave Twitter. Now is the time to VOTE BLUE!
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) October 28, 2022
Actor Mia Farrow, who plays Pearl on the Netflix miniseries The Watcher (2022), had months ago said that she would leave Twitter if it became a hub of hate under Musk. She later deleted the tweet.
In response to one of Musk’s tweets in April on freedom of speech, Farrow wrote, “You gave us Tesla and Space X. Thank you! Hope you can keep Twitter worthy of your previous achievements and of lawful people everywhere.”
You gave us Tesla ♥️ and Space X♥️👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽. Thank you! Hope you can keep Twitter worthy of your previous achievements and of lawful people everywhere
— Mia Farrow🇺🇦 (@MiaFarrow) April 27, 2022
According to PEOPLE, Jameela Jamil, the star of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series She-Hulk, left Twitter on 25 April, expressing her concerns over hate speech.
“I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny. Best of luck,” she wrote.
However, NBC reports that Jamil deleted the tweet and returned to the platform.
Yet a tweet she sent announcing her intent to leave before the ‘final tweet’ continues to remain on her account.
“One good thing about Elon buying twitter is that I will *FINALLY* leave and stop being a complete menace to society on here. So it’s win win for you all really,” she wrote in the tweet posted on 25 April.
One good thing about Elon buying twitter is that I will *FINALLY* leave and stop being a complete menace to society on here. So it’s win win for you all really. 😂
— ❤️ Jameela Jamil ❤️ She/Her ❤️ (@jameelajamil) April 25, 2022
Instead of leaving Twitter, celebrity and Asian-American actor George Takei of Star Trek fame, who is an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party, also urged his followers to remain on Twitter and help fight “misinformation.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Should this place become more toxic, I pledge to strive even harder to lift up reason, science, compassion and the rule of law,” Takei wrote.
“The struggle against fascism, misinformation, and hate requires tough fighters. I hope you stay in the fight, right beside me,” he added.
I’m not going anywhere. Should this place become more toxic, I pledge to strive even harder to lift up reason, science, compassion and the rule of law. The struggle against fascism, misinformation, and hate requires tough fighters. I hope you stay in the fight, right beside me.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) April 25, 2022
(Hero image: : Courtesy of Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP; Featured image: Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao/@nate_dumlao/Unsplash)