Over the last couple weeks, the popular social media platform Twitter has seen a notice able transformation since billionaire Elon Musk acquired the company for $44 billion.
In light of the acquisition, national conversation sparked around whether Musk’s control over Twitter could potentially jeopardize online conversation and control of viral issues like misinformation.
With Musk’s takeover of the company, will new Twitter policies propagate and facilitate free speech or diminish it?
“I don’t think free speech would be diminished under Musk,” said Elizabeth Moore, a Las Vegas resident and avid Twitter user since 2013.
“I believe it might actually be a good thing! Twitter has been the center of controversy for the last couple of years for censoring users who have differing opinions to their own,” Moore said. She thinks having someone like Musk in charge can help bring a balance between those contrary to Twitter themselves.
Moore said that Twitter now allows users to have blue checkmarks for $8, which might create a balance between celebrities and normal everyday users, in terms of everyday online speech. Twitter could be more flexible in terms of online conversation, and less authoritative like before.
Musk said on Twitter in April that he is extremely “against censorship that goes far beyond law” and intends on making Twitter a safe haven for free speech, describing himself as a “free speech absolutist.” This particular precedent highlights that the new Twitter leadership is adamant on making Twitter an equal platform for people, regardless of political affiliation.
In most cases, reduction of moderation on online content can allow people to freely express what they believe to be true, without fear of being censored or otherwise banned from public speech. To some extent, this embodies the role of free speech within our society.
Although the reduction of Twitter staff might be the result of general frictional unemployment, Musk made it clear that free speech lies at the basis of the takeover and rampant employee layoffs have been the result of this particular goal.
By reducing the employee amount, the frequency of moderation of general topics have been reduced, lessening the likelihood of posts getting fact-checked or censored completely. This specific area outlines the reality where Twitter can be used to freely spread speech, instead of navigating around company censorship guidelines.
With such a scenario, what does this mean for freedom of speech overall? Well, not much at the moment.
If anything, Twitter seems to propagate a limitless expression of speech, with very few limitations on what can be said.
In the long run, this might be good for American citizens, as people who are generally censored or banned have a platform to vocalize their viewpoints, without fear of censorship. In all regards, this leaves Twitter vulnerable to misinformation, which could potentially have negative effects on what is fact and what is fiction in our current communication-driven world.
The coming days will determine the direction Twitter will go in under Musk’s leadership, whether or not Musk upholds free speech or tarnishes it completely will only be dictated by time.