What Will Happen to Twitter & Freedom of Speech

Twitter & Freedom of Speech

Now that he’s finally bought it, will Elon Musk make Twitter better or worse? Here’s what will happen in the near future.

After more than 6 months of one of the most insane high-profile business negotiations in recent history, it’s finally happened – Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, has officially taken over Twitter.

Also see: Free Speech R.I.P. – Except for the Rich

Musk apparently fired Twitter’s CEO Parag Agrawal as well as two other top executives, CFO Ned Segal and head of legal policy, trust and security Vijay Gade, according to reports from CNBC, The Washington Post and The NY Times. The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reported that the deal had closed Thursday night. However, there was no official confirmation from Twitter or Musk at the time of publication.

This acquisition means Musk will avoid a lengthy legal battle that would have forced him to testify in court. And also reveal potentially more embarrassing private conversations with his friends about the business as part of the legal process. And Twitter will no longer have to wait in limbo as an orphaned tech company begging for someone to take ownership. It also won’t have to deal with Musk’s public outings aimed at the company’s leadership. Musk actually tweeted a poop emoji in what might be one of the most shocking executive insults of all time. In the days leading up to the deal, Musk changed his tone to a “friendlier mockery”, so to speak. He visited Twitter’s headquarters and met employees on Wednesday. Then he tweeted a video of himself carrying a sink into the office, with the caption, “Entering Twitter HQ – here you go!” And changed his Twitter bio to “Main Tweet”.

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Freedom of Speech

So far, Elon Musk has tweeted a lot of ideas about how he plans to turn Twitter around. Here are some of the most significant. Making Twitter a “free speech” platform is Musk’s most consistent message about why he wants to buy Twitter. He wants it to be an open digital town square of ideas without intervention. He said he would allow anyone to say whatever they want on the platform as long as it’s legal. “I think it’s essential to have freedom of speech and be allowed to communicate freely,” Musk said at a Twitter employee meeting in June. But it’s unclear exactly how Musk plans to follow through on his promise of free speech or what he even means by it.

The recent growth of “free speech” platforms like Parler, Truth Social, and Gettr have shown that if you let anyone say whatever they want on a social media app, there’s a good chance the app would become a toxic, hateful place. That is why even these relatively open platforms have some basic content moderation policies. You can say plenty of perfectly legal things that are unpleasant to read: racial slurs, explicit violent content, bullying, and spam. That type of content is generally bad for business because most users and advertisers don’t want it. Musk knows that. That’s why he said, paradoxically, that he would use algorithms to promote and demote content, arguing for “freedom of speech” but not “freedom of reach.”

“I think people should be able to say pretty outrageous things, but within the bounds of the law. However, then it doesn’t get amplified, it doesn’t get, you know, a ton of reach,” Musk said in June.

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But Musk didn’t explain how he will decide what content will and won’t be available and how it will differ from what Twitter currently does. Twitter has long struggled with harmful content, like every other major social media platform, including an advertiser boycott in 2020. And in recent years, it has expanded its policies against hate speech, harassment and violent content. On Thursday, Musk appeared to address concerns about his nonpartisan approach to content moderation by tweeting a public memo to advertisers. He wrote that Twitter “can’t become a freewheeling hell, where anything can be said without consequence!” And added that he wants Twitter to be a place “where you can choose the experience you want according to your preferences. Like you can choose, for example, to watch a movie or play video games ranging from all ages and groups.”

Anyway, so far, it seems that Musk believes in freedom of speech, which is good and wants to bring it back to life, or at least half-life. But does that mean he will unban Donald Trump and others as well? And what will that mean for freedom of speech? Read it here.

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Teboho Ibrahim
Teboho Ibrahim
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