Elon Musk has said his plan to purchase Twitter is about freedom of speech and rolling back censorship. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo
The pending change in ownership has been met with strong reaction across the globe, much of which, unsurprisingly, has been shared on Twitter.
Musk, 50, became Twitter’s largest shareholder in March after purchasing 9.2% of shares.
He has long been a critic of Twitter’s policies and censorship rules, and says that under his ownership, Twitter would reach “extraordinary potential” as a private company. He has framed his desire to own the company as a free speech issue.
Critics have feared Musk may implement a hands-off policy concerning content, a U-turn from Twitter’s recent efforts to limit misinformation concerning COVID-19 and politics.
“The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all,” Musk tweeted Tuesday.
“By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”
It’s unclear which country’s laws he’s referring to, but a British government spokesperson told The Guardian on Tuesday that Twitter must abide by an upcoming online safety bill in the country. Under the proposed law, companies must protect users from harmful content or face fines or a ban.
“Twitter and all social media platforms must protect their users from harm on their sites,” the official said. “We are introducing new online safety laws to safeguard children, prevent abusive behavior and protect free speech. All tech firms with users in the U.K. will need to comply with the new laws or face hefty fines and having their sites blocked.”
The Digital Services Act in the EU likewise requires platforms to combat certain content deemed illegal, including hate speech.
“Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules — regardless of their shareholding,” tweeted Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market. “Mr. Musk knows this well. He is familiar with European rules on automotive and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act.”
Twitter co-founder, board member and former CEO Jack Dorsey said Monday he trusts Musk to run the company, though he doesn’t believe a single person should own it. He described the platform as “the closest thing we have to a global consciousness.”
“The idea and service is all that matters to me, and I will do whatever it takes to protect both. Twitter as a company has always been my sole issue and my biggest regret. It has been owned by Wall Street and the ad model. Taking it back from Wall Street is the correct first step,” Dorsey tweeted.
“In principle, I don’t believe anyone should own or run Twitter. It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company. Solving for the problem of it being a company however, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.”
Meanwhile, multiple U.S. lawmakers chimed in on the deal in their own tweets.
“This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold Big Tech accountable,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted Monday.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Musk’s purchase of Twitter would be “the most significant thing to happen to free speech in decades.”
“Twitter openly censors speech based on political ideologies and makes a mockery of our Constitutional liberties. If Elon Musk can turn that around to actually protect free speech and encourage open discourse, Twitter’s full potential will be unlocked,” he tweeted.