FREEDOM OF SPEECH COMES WITH SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
On October 26th, Elon Musk marked his ownership of Twitter with the tweet, “Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!”
Musk completed a massive deal worth 44 billion dollars for the social media platform, and his plans for Twitter have been a continued topic for political and technological discourse. A pillar of Musk’s plans for Twitter has been focused on increasing free speech. He has even joked that “comedy is now legal on Twitter.”
Twitter under Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has sown divisions in public opinion. Activist groups, in particular, have claimed that Musk’s Twitter takeover will rejuvenate hate speech and give users the freedom to spread harmful content. However, Musk has publicly stated that “Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged.”
While some think Musk will create a freer platform, others fear that it will harm marginalized groups, who are impacted the most when free speech is used to justify harmful sentiments.
It’s undeniable that free speech should be a universal right. However, free speech comes with responsibility. Freedom of expression cannot be used as a principle to justify the spread of misinformation and extremism, which inflame divisions and undermine our democratic institutions.
When Elon Musk jokes about content moderation and tweets, “finally, the truth that carbs are amazing can be said on this platform,” he undermines people’s concerns about the impact of harmful content. Fears surrounding content moderation are warranted, especially after whistleblower, Frances Haugen, revealed that Facebook algorithms popularized hate speech and negative content.
If Twitter wants to be a platform where people can freely exchange ideas, it must keep content moderation at the centre of its vision.
Although it seems that all the power is in Musk’s hands, Twitter users also have the ability to decide whether or not we should continue to use the platform. It’s a hard decision due to Twitter’s social and political importance, but whether we choose to stay on the platform or not, Twitter’s longevity will ultimately be determined by Musk’s direction of the platform.
Elon Musk has a social responsibility to create a safe environment for every user. Not just because it’s ethical, but because it’s a sound business decision. If Musk allows Twitter to become a place where users are constantly fed misinformation, Twitter’s purpose as a digital environment for real discourse will be defeated. And more importantly — the users won’t stay.
Musk’s Twitter takeover reminds us just how important it is for tech companies to accept responsibility. These platforms have the power to shape public discourse, and if this power is used irresponsibly, the future of our politics and social lives is at stake.