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  /  Latest News   /  Twitteratis are Not Buying Elon Musk’s Explanation of ‘Free Speech’!

Twitteratis are Not Buying Elon Musk’s Explanation of ‘Free Speech’!

Elon Musk’s ‘Free Speech’ explanation is not something the Twitteratis will accept so soon

Elon Musk, the maverick entrepreneur, was typical of himself when he tactically foregrounded online ‘free speech’ as his major motivation to take over the popular microblogging site, Twitter. The US$44 million bid that he made was needed to expand the horizons of democracy by ensuring freedom of speech in a more extensive and sustained manner than what was being done by the social media platform so far. In such a stance, at least openly, profit was at best a secondary issue. Musk has, however, not mentioned any plan to change Twitter from a for-profit venture to a non-profit one. In this backdrop, the point that begs attention is how convincing to others Musk is about free speech. Leave alone others, even the Twitteratis seem to be far from being convinced. Let us briefly trace the sources for this kind of skepticism.

The dominant popular perception is that Musk being Musk, will leave no stone unturned to find a more appropriate business model for Twitter which runs far behind Google and Facebook (Meta) in revenue generation. If one follows his recent statements on the functioning of the microblogging site it is clear that he favours a lesser degree of content moderation. He may reduce Twitter’s content moderation team for this purpose alone, and some may leave voluntarily because he is now the top boss of the Twitteratis. But the major issue is whether less content moderation necessarily leads to free speech or not? It is a crucial issue worthy of intense scrutiny because lesser content moderation will involve the process of inclusion/retention and deletion, and the important thing is what exactly is being included and what is being excluded. Then again, who is to be privileged in the content moderation process is another vital question. Hypothetically speaking, if Musk brings a person like Donald Trump back by reversing the ban for the life of his Twitter account will it be, considering the former US President’s utterances, it will make a great step towards free speech on this microblogging site perhaps!

 

No less important is the question, what is Musk’s track record in free speech? Even if we do not go to the extent of asking whether he knows what free speech means, the critical observers of digital platforms, the activists, and even the Twitter employees do not seem to have a clue as to how Musk will negotiate the complex and slippery crossings of content moderation and free speech. Musk has assured that he will make this microblogging site available to a greater number of users (or, make a greater number of users available to Twitter) but the beleaguered social media platform does not have a very impressive report card to show in terms of its subscribers. When Musk tells us that he will only remove law violating and violent contents from the Twitter, will go for the open-sourcing of its algorithm, authenticate all humans, and so forth, they sound good but there remains a lurking suspicion that free speech is a much more profound issue, the realization of which is not exactly a business for a man like Musk. If that sounds too pessimistic, one may be a bit more optimistic and say that let’s wait and hope for the best.