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The man who once tweeted as @X wasn't informed when the company took over his handle


The letter X marks the spot, crosses out mistakes. Well, X is now also the social media site formerly known as Twitter. CEO Elon Musk announced the rebrand earlier this week, and the transition has been messy, to say the least. The company didn't get permission to remove the Twitter sign from its San Francisco headquarters, nor did it secure the intellectual property rights to the letter X. And when @Twitter officially changed its handle to @X, the move left photographer Gene X. Hwang without a username because @X used to be his. We wanted to get his thoughts on this whole series of events, so he joins me now. Gene, welcome.

GENE X HWANG: Hey. How's it going?

SUMMERS: It is going well. So, Gene, just for starters, how long did you have this Twitter handle?

HWANG: So I've had it since 2007, which I kind of forgot because it's been such a long time.

SUMMERS: OK, so 2007. That is a long time. How did you learn that this handle, @X, was no longer yours?

HWANG: I received an email from So, you know, it said, hey. This is property of X, so we're going to transition you to a different account. We'll keep your history for being such a loyal, you know, user and some merch and a tour of the offices and meeting with some of the management as, you know, kind of compensation for taking the handle back.

SUMMERS: OK. And given all the news about Twitter's sort of rebrand, was this something you were expecting, or what did you think when that email showed up in your inbox?

HWANG: So sort of I was expecting it because, you know, Elon had been kind of tweeting about X previously. So I kind of knew - you know, I had an inkling that this is going to be happening. I didn't really know when. So when - I was actually in Canada at Yegpin, a pinball tournament. So when I was traveling back to San Francisco, it all kind of happened right during that time. So I was kind of, you know, off the grid while I was in the air. So when I landed and fired up my phone, I just got all these messages, and I was like, what is going on? And the account hadn't - nothing had changed with the account then because that happened later on, when it actually got taken back from Twitter. So it was - you know, I suspected it might be something that could happen. So it wasn't, like, 100%, like, out of the blue.

SUMMERS: You mentioned earlier that the company offered you merch, to meet with some folks from the staff and a tour of headquarters. Is that something you're planning on taking them up on?

HWANG: Well, I had visited Twitter's offices before. I had friends that worked there, so - and I know it hasn't really changed too much, but then I thought it might be funny to get some merch. But then some people are like, oh, don't take that because then that'll make it, like, a transaction or something. So I don't really care about that too much. But they are taking the sign down, which they've been doing, like you mentioned earlier. And I asked if I could have the blue bird that's on the sign, but they said that that's not an option, unfortunately.

SUMMERS: I mean, looking ahead, what about your future on X? Do you think you're going to stay on the platform or look somewhere else?

HWANG: I've been checking out other options like Threads and Mastodon and Bluesky because I think one of the things you do - or I do is when there's a new one, you kind of hop on there so you can get your username, right? So - and I usually use G-E-N-E-X, GeneX as, like, my handle on things. So I did pop onto all of those to try to kind of claim my account on those. And I've been poking around, and I've been finding Mastodon a little bit more useful lately. But I'm still on Twitter for now, but it's changed a lot, so we'll see how much longer I'm on there.

SUMMERS: That's Gene X. Hwang, who used to own the @X handle. Gene, thank you.

HWANG: Thanks, Juana.

SUMMERS: And we should note that NPR reached out to X for comment but has not received a response from the company at this time.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.