Sunday, 26 November, 2023

Twitter users react to Elon Musk’s free speech argument

Netizens say the world’s richest man’s support to free speech “which matches the law” is a problematic argument and unintelligible as well.

“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means,” Musk said on Twitter. (Reuters)

Elon Musk, the world's richest man who struck a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion has signalled support for free speech "which matches the law", sparking criticism and accusations that Musk is clueless and his definition of what constitutes free speech is "problematic."

Musk, who describes himself as a "free speech absolutist" has been saying he would encourage no holds barred exchanges between the network's 400 million users.

On Tuesday, the 50-year-old billionaire tweeted, "By 'free speech', I simply mean that which matches the law."

"I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask [the] government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people."

READ MORE: Musk’s Twitter takeover: Win for free speech or reason for a wealth tax?

Musk's fresh comments ignited a barrage of reactions, with many commentators slamming his arguments.

"Totally cool that the guy who bought a major media platform has no idea what free speech means," Seth Masket, a political scientist who teaches at the University of Denver wrote on Twitter.

"I don't mean he's wrong, I mean his definition is unintelligible."

Tom Bacon, a freelancer writer said that Twitter's freedom of speech policy will not necessarily correlate with every country's laws.

"Twitter is an international platform. The law in one country is different from the law in another; indeed, the will of the people in one country is different from the will of the people in another," Bacon said.

"I strongly suspect you're [Musk] going to wind up regretting this acquisition."

READ MORE: Concerns grow over Musk's 'control' of online speech after Twitter buyout

"He's gonna do a Twitter poll for which country's censorship laws will be used across Twitter, then we'll be banned if we bad-mouth Modi or whatever," another Twitter user Aric Toler wrote.

Like other social media networks, Twitter has struggled against disinformation, bullying and hate-fuelled content in recent years.

It has banned numeroususers for promoting violence or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

High-profile people removed from the platform include former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and ex-president Donald Trump.

Twitter has also cracked down on lies about Covid-19 and removed thousands of accounts linked to the far-right "QAnon" movement, whose followers believe Trump is waging a secret war against a global liberal cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Musk will also be wary about making too many changes that contribute to users flocking away from the site, experts say.

He has not specified exactly what restrictions he intends to roll back. But he hinted in a tweet on Tuesday that change was coming.

"The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all," he wrote.

READ MORE: Elon Musk buys Twitter for about $44B, will privatise company

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