Elon Musk appeared at TED2022 yesterday, fresh after his $41 billion bid for Twitter in what has been dubbed as a “hostile takeover,” when the conversation naturally moved to Twitter, what he’d change, and what that means to him as a self-described “free of expression absolutist.” Chris Anderson, the head of TED, questioned Musk on what freedom of speech would be like on Twitter under his ownership during a live TED session that included included Tesla and the future of the globe.
Some speculate that he wants the constraints on what can be said on the public platform to be loosened, while others believe that having the world’s richest man in charge of what people can and can’t say on what is effectively a public platform but is officially a private firm is not ideal. Musk, for one, claimed he had no idea why he wanted to buy Twitter. When Anderson brought up an earlier conversation in which Musk stated that he did not want to control Twitter, Musk stumbled through an explanation, claiming that Twitter is critical to the operation of democracies.
Despite Musk’s lack of confidence in his ability to acquire Twitter, he stated that the goal is to make twitter a trusted and widely inclusive public platform. Although Musk has a good goal, it’s unclear whether he’s thought this through or really understands what freedom of speech entails. “Is someone you don’t like permitted to say something you don’t like? This is a good indicator of whether or not there is free speech. We have free speech if that is the case. When someone you don’t like says something you don’t like, it’s incredibly irritating. That is a hallmark of a well-functioning free speech environment “he stated.
When Anderson pressed Musk on his claim to be a “free speech absolutist,” Musk backtracked on his previous statements, acknowledging that tweets are not illegal. Musk has been sued for defamation in the past for something he said on Twitter. Individuals and even communities should be able to express their beliefs and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal consequence from governments, according to the notion of free speech. Following Twitter’s (and later other social media platforms’) ban of Donald Trump, several social media campaigns – particularly in right-wing circles – have focused on the alleged lack of freedom of speech and “cancel culture.” However, freedom of expression is not total, and it does not imply immunity from repercussions.
Perjury, libel, slander, hate speech, and disclosing state secrets are all examples of legal restrictions on freedom of expression. As a businessman, Musk will understand that things like copyright breaches, trade secrets, and non-disclosure agreements aren’t covered by free speech. Musk, on the other hand, gets to the heart of his argument when he talks about the algorithm. He wants Twitter to show that no tweet is intentionally elevated or degraded by the algorithm, and that this information is available to everyone.
When Anderson brought up the subject of tweets that have been reported for saying things that are against Twitter’s current rules, Musk said that the tweets should be allowed to stay on the site and that if there is a gray area, they should not be promoted further, contradicting his earlier point about artificial tweet manipulation. Reporting posts on social media networks has been a difficult topic. The function, which is supposed to defend people’s rights and prevent disinformation from spreading, has frequently been used to attack the exact people and groups it was supposed to protect.
Biases against underrepresented groups, such as Black people, have been discovered using merely algorithms for moderating. However, having no laws at all can have real-world ramifications. Former President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets, for example, have been connected to an uptick in violence towards Muslims. “I’m not claiming to have all the solutions here, but I believe we should be wary about permanent bans and just be cautious about deleting stuff.” “You know, I think timeouts are preferable than permanent bans,” Musk added during the interview.
Despite how hesitant he appears to be to erase anything, Musk was ordered to delete a tweet by the National Labor Relations Board in 2019 following the firing of a Tesla employee who was a union advocate. He may be anti-delete, but he appears to support the contentious edit button concept. However, it was less obvious how he would put the rules in place.