AS the board of Twitter agrees to Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover offer, the world’s richest person’s stance on free speech is in the spotlight.
Musk, who made the shock bid to own the social media platform less than two weeks ago, promised a series of changes on Twitter from relaxing its content restrictions to eradicating fake accounts.
In a tweet to announce his takeover, Musk who had previously expressed concerns that Twitter’s content moderators intervene too much on the platform said he hopes to “increase trust” on Twitter.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.
“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spambots, and authenticating all humans,” he said.
🚀💫♥️ Yesss!!! ♥️💫🚀 pic.twitter.com/0T9HzUHuh6— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
“Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it,” he added.
On Monday, prior to the announcement of his agreement with Twitter, Musk said he hoped even his “worst critics” continued to use the platform “because that is what free speech means”.
After the January 6 riot at the Capitol in the United States, Twitter said former US President Donald Trump had violated its policies by inciting violence among his supporters.
While Twitter banned Trump, Facebook also banned him from their platform for the same reason.
Musk is yet to comment publicly on how he would handle Trump’s banned Twitter account. However, Musk’s free speech comments have increased speculations that Twitter under his ownership might reinstate Trump.
The former president himself has ruled himself out of returning to the social media platform, where his posts stirred controversy – and at times caused international diplomatic crises.
“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on Truth,” Trump told Fox News, referring to his own social media platform.
“I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on Truth,” Trump said.
At a TED conference in April, Musk elaborated on his plans to make the company’s algorithm an open-source model to allow users to see the code showing how certain posts came up in their timelines.
He said the open-source method would be better than “having tweets sort of being mysteriously promoted and demoted with no insight into what’s going on”.
Before Musk offered to buy Twitter this month, he expressed concern about the relevance of the platform.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican and a potential 2024 presidential candidate, said Musk’s offer to buy Twitter “raises the prospect that the platform will be a place where free speech can thrive, not a tool for narrative enforcement”.
While Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, a Trump ally, also tweeted “free speech is making a comeback”
In early April, a Twitter handle posted a list of the ten most followed Twitter accounts which includes former President Barack Obama and the pop stars Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
Musk responded by tweeting that “Most of these ‘top’ accounts tweet rarely and post very little content. Is Twitter dying?”
Despite, initially rebuffing Musk’s bid, the board of Twitter made a U-turn asking shareholders to vote to approve the deal.
Twitter’s stance changed after Musk revealed the financial details of his offer by securing $25.5 billion of financing for the deal and opted to take a $21 billion stake in the business.
The social media company ended 2021 with more than 200 million daily users globally, up 13 per cent from the previous year, with most of that growth coming from overseas.