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Twitter's future: How might the platform change under Elon Musk's ownership?

Topics like Donald Trump's banishment to a long-discussed edit function could be in play if the company is taken over by the Tesla and SpaceX founder.

Elon Musk is months away from completing his purchase of Twitter, and he is most likely even further away possibly changing one of the world's most powerful social media platforms.

When it comes, Musk's ownership, reached in a $44 billion deal that will take the internet's public square private, is likely to have far-reaching consequences for communications on the platform and beyond.

What legal and regulatory hoops are ahead of Musk before he can take control of Twitter?

Few hurdles stand in the way of Musk’s taking the reins besides the mercurial billionaire’s himself changing his mind, Columbia University law professor Zohar Goshen said.

For one thing, Musk insisted that Twitter waive what is known as a go-shop clause, which would have guaranteed the company the right to seek another bidder at a higher price — although, in fact, Twitter could still accept a higher bid as long as it paid a $1 billion breakup fee to Musk, who would also be on the hook for that fee if he changes his mind.

Musk, meanwhile, waived his right to review Twitter's financial performance — which he signaled when he said in an interview at the time of his bid, “I don’t care about the economics at all.” 

The transaction is now contingent on a majority of Twitter investors.

While one prominent shareholder, the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has already voiced his disapproval over the company's valuation, Twitter's board unanimously approved the deal and recommended that other shareholders do the same. A shareholder said Monday that Musk's track record at Tesla and transparency about his plans for changes at Twitter made him a suitable owner.

As for regulators, Goshen said, U.S. authorities wouldn't have much of a case from an anti-competition standpoint given that Musk owns no other media platforms and therefore the deal doesn’t represent consolidation within Twitter's existing industry.

Other analysts have said it would represent an extraordinary shift in longtime practice to present an objection to a private transaction. Goshen said European regulators could force Musk and Twitter to add data-sharing protections but wouldn't be able to scuttle the deal itself.

How could an edit function on tweets work, and what are the implications?

Reports suggest Twitter has been actively working on an edit button for at least a year and that it is in the final stages of rolling one out — most likely as a feature for users of Twitter Blue, its premium service.

Musk has hinted he'd welcome an edit feature:

Tech blogger Jane Manchun Wong, a respected industry observer based in Hong Kong, said it appears the edit function is being developed narrowly to allow users to correct typos or other grammatical errors.

To that end, it appears Twitter will give users only a limited time window within which to edit tweets. The idea is to prevent someone from editing a tweet to change its fundamental content after it has already gone viral for hours or even days.

Users would also be able to see and track the edit history of a tweet, Wong said, which would further prevent misuse.

"It will help a lot of people to fix headaches and regrets when they make typos or autocorrect errors," Wong said.

Given her reporting and observations, Wong said, she expects the feature to be rolled out in as soon as 30 days.

Could former President Donald Trump and other banned figures make Twitter comebacks?

Days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Twitter “permanently suspended” Trump for violating its "Glorification of Violence policy."

Trump has said he won't go back to Twitter even if his ban is rescinded.

But the role Twitter played in Trump's rise can't be denied, and his possible return to the platform, if he's granted a reprieve, would be too valuable to pass up, said Baldwin Wallace University sociology professor Brian Monahan, who co-authored The Art of the Spiel: Analyzing Donald Trump’s Tweets as Gonzo Storytelling.

"It was immeasurably helpful to his early branding and his eventual political success," Monahan said, referring to Twitter.

"I'm skeptical" about Trump's denial of a Twitter return, he said. "It's such a valuable form of communicating the particular kind of story he wants to tell and the way he wants to tell it."

Other notable banned Twitter figures include conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars platform, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, former major-league baseball player Aubrey Huff, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

What does it take to get suspended or banned from Twitter?

Twitter now has sweeping policies to limit harm from the internet's worst offenders.

Anyone deemed to be encouraging abuse, violence, child sexual exploitation and any number of other banned Twitter activities are subject to suspension or banishment.

Musk has long called Twitter the digital world's "town square" of discourse, hinting that he could want fewer rules governing users and content.

Musk's critics, such as the noted computer programmer and game developer Brianna Wu, read his "town square" rhetoric as a threat to safety standards that could lead more online hate to be directed toward women and minorities.

"I don't trust Elon Musk to make Twitter better for women at all," Wu told "NBC Nightly News." "I just absolutely don't. If you're asking yourself if this is someone who is going to bat for people that are underrepresented, I just don't think that's going to be the case, unfortunately."

Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called Musk "an ACLU card-carrying member and one of our most significant supporters" but worried about his potential takeover.

"In today’s world, a small handful of private tech companies — including Twitter — play a profound and unique role in enabling our right to express ourselves online," Romero said in a statement.

"We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it’s a government or any wealthy individual — even if it’s an ACLU member — having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online.”