Rights groups raise hate speech concerns after Musk’s Twitter takeover

Rights groups warn free speech must not come at the expense of other human rights, after self-declared ‘free speech absolutist’ Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter.

Musk, the world’s richest man and chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, has struck a $44 billion deal to buy the social media platform and take it private.

It’s a watershed moment for the 16-year-old company, one of the most influential public squares in the world.

Musk criticized Twitter’s content moderation policy on the platform and said the social media giant should become a true forum for free speech.

“Free speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital public square where issues vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement.

While some American conservatives applauded the prospect of less controlshuman rights activists expressed fears of a rise in hate speech.

Deborah Brown, researcher and digital rights advocate at Human Rights Watch, said whoever owns Twitter, the company has a responsibility to respect the human rights of people around the world who depend on the platform.

“Changes to its policies, features and algorithms, large and small, can have disproportionate and sometimes devastating impacts, including offline violence,” Brown told Reuters in an email.

“Free speech is not an absolute right, which is why Twitter must invest in efforts to keep its most vulnerable users safe on the platform.”

Musk’s Twitter account seen on a smartphone in front of the Twitter logo. Musk, whose Twitter exceeds 84 million, has been a vocal critic of the company’s moderation policies. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Amnesty International also chimed in, saying it was concerned about Twitter’s potential to make decisions that could erode enforcement mechanisms designed to moderate hate speech.

“The last thing we need is a Twitter that deliberately turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, especially those most disproportionately affected, including women, non-binary people and others” , said Michael Kleinman, director of technology and human rights. to Amnesty International USA.

Support from former Twitter CEO

Musk wants Twitter’s algorithm for prioritizing tweets to be public and has said he opposes giving too much power over the service to companies that advertise. He also advocated user-friendly tweaks to the service, such as an edit button and defeating “spam bots” that send overwhelming amounts of unwanted tweets.

Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey weighed in on the deal Monday night with a series of tweets thanking both Musk and current Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal for “getting the company out of a bind.” impossible”.

“Twitter as a business has always been my only problem and my biggest regret. It belongs to Wall Street and the advertising model. Taking it back to Wall Street is the right first step,” he said.

Musk says it’s not about the money

Musk, who is worth $268 billion, according to Forbessaid he was not primarily concerned with the economics of Twitter.

“Having a broadly inclusive, maximum-trust public platform is extremely important for the future of civilization. I don’t care about the economy at all,” he said at a recent public lecture. .

The Twitter transaction has been approved by the company’s board of directors and is now up for a shareholder vote. No regulatory hurdles are expected, analysts said.

Although only about a tenth the size of much larger social media platforms like Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook, Twitter has been credited with helping to spawn the Arab Spring uprising, and accused of playing a role January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol.