If you didn’t get the chance to read the news in the past few days, or you were hiking in the mountains, or simply just waiting for Synthesio to tell you, here it is: Elon Musk struck a deal with Twitter just weeks after becoming the company’s largest shareholder. On Monday, the world’s richest person secured the deal, agreeing to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share — valuing the company at roughly $44 billion USD.

Musk claims the takeover’s mission is to restore freedom of speech on social media. At the beginning of April, he tweeted a series of polls to find out how the platform’s 217 million active daily users felt about Twitter. In the responses, his followers expressed that Twitter was not conducive to free speech. Weeks later, Elon Musk announced that it was necessary to create a new social network based on an open-source algorithm that would protect this freedom – and thus proposed a deal to Twitter to do just that. Now, the deal has been unanimously approved by Twitter’s board and is expected to close this year.

To find out how online consumers responded to the news, we collected and analyzed more than 3 million mentions from social media sites, forums, blogs, and more using Synthesio’s AI-enabled consumer intelligence platform. Here’s what we found:

1. Internet users are more afraid of hate speech and disinformation than ever

 Using Synthesio Topic Modeling, we scanned and categorized more than 500K online conversations related to Twitter (English only mentions collected on April 26). The AI-powered theme detection tool showed that the largest topic – gathering roughly 20% of conversation volume- is related to the fear of hate speech and disinformation.

2. Politics are at the heart of online dialogue

Right behind the “free speech” topic, Topic Modeling found that the second biggest driver of conversation was the former American President, Donald Trump. With almost 10% of social conversations, internet users are wondering if Trump will be allowed back on the social network in the name of free speech – and if he might use it for a presidential campaign in 2024. (For our curious readers: for now, Trump says he won’t return to Twitter if his account is reinstated.)

But, digging into our network chart (a Synthesio representation of both intensity – based on the total volume of mentions – and connections between people mentioned), we noticed Donald Trump certainly wasn’t the only politician talked about in relation to Twitter’s takeover.

For example,  Joe Biden spurred online conversation. While The White House didn’t comment on the takeover, they claimed President Biden has long been concerned about the power of social networks and the spread of disinformation.

3. Fear is leading some users to look for alternatives

We also found that fear is driving some Twitter users to leave the platform entirely and/or find new alternatives. Even though a large audience doesn’t take this movement seriously, it is trending in online conversations. 

For the most worried users, Mastodon (open-source software people can use to create their own social networks) seems to have become a shelter, earning a +1591% volume of mentions over the past 7 days. The platform gained nearly 30,000 new users on the day Elon Musk acquired Twitter.

So while some are skeptical about the deal, others are hopeful for a more “free” social media platform – and less bots. In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep tabs on evolving consumer sentiment towards Twitter’s new ownership – if and when the deal officially closes. To learn more about how you can use Synthesio’s platform to keep a finger on the pulse of consumers, request a demo with our team here.