More free speech or more misinformation? Mixed Reactions to Twitter Sales

Elon Musk Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s $ 44 billion deal to buy Twitter sparked mixed reactions as observers speculated how the digital language of the service might change under his leadership.

Musk, a prolific Twitter user who has been criticized in his Twitter management tweets, said in a press release announcing the deal on Monday that “Twitter is a digital public square where topics that are essential to the future of humanity are discussed.”

Some conservatives in the United States have praised Musk for taking to Twitter, accusing Internet companies — including Twitter — of promoting a liberal political agenda and suppressing conservative voices.

Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, tweeted that “it’s amazing to see the panic of the Left in the face of Twitter’s free speech.”

But others expressed concern that Musk’s assumption would lead to a reduction in hate speech and misinformation on the website.

Sumayyah Waheed, of Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization, told VOA that Twitter has no good way to get rid of hate speech against Muslims.

“We are already facing common threats and harassment on Twitter, and a weaker content moderation system will make that even worse,” he said.

Twitter, with more than 400 million active users every month, has a smaller audience than Facebook, with 3 billion users, and YouTube, with more than 2 billion.

Twitter is used primarily in the U.S. and Western Europe, where it has an impact on journalists, political leaders, celebrities, and other thinkers. The fact that powerful people use Twitter has a huge impact, observers say.

Twitter allows people to post anonymously and helps them speak out to marginalized voices around the world. Musk recently spoke on the site about wanting to “authenticate all real human beings,” and has raised concerns among digital rights advocates that Twitter needs to link accounts to a person’s identity.

Musk under Twitter

Michael Posner, director of the Stern Center for Business and Human Rights at New York University, said Musk’s statements about free speech “are not very well developed.”

“We hope that once we get into the driver’s seat, he understands that the social media platform needs to be moderated by the people who own and manage it,” he told VOA. “A site that doesn’t take content moderation seriously will create spam, pornography, hate speech and misinformation and all sorts of things that aren’t good for society.”

Emerson Brooking, a senior resident at the Atlantic Digital Forensic Research Lab in the U.S. think tank, said Twitter is likely to change with the new management.

“Musk’s absolutist views on freedom of expression, the unknown challenges facing many people around the world in expressing their political views, will clash these two things,” he said in an interview with VOA. “And I hope that the future of Twitter will look quite different and that it will be quite inviting for a lot of people.”

Concentration of power

Evan Greer, director of the digital rights organization Fight for the Future, said Musk’s purchase reveals another problem: “Few companies have a monopoly on what can be seen, heard and done online.”

“If we want a future of free speech, it is not a future where the richest people on Earth can buy a platform dependent on millions of people and then change the rules to their liking,” he said in an interview with VOA.

According to Musk, it has been speculated that Twitter may have banned former President Donald Trump from banning it in 2021. But before Trump announced the deal on Monday, Fox News told Musk that although he hoped he would buy Twitter, he would not return to service. Instead, he will go to his social media site, Social Truth, he said.

For his part, Musk tweeted on Monday that he acknowledged the mixed reactions to his new role: “I hope my worst criticism remains on Twitter, which is what freedom of expression means.”

More free speech or more misinformation? Mixed Reactions to Twitter Sales

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