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Twitter — Musk’s dangerous toy


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Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and his plans to reorient the platform “to help humanity” is highly disconcerting. There are several contradictions between Musk’s stated objective to acquire Twitter and his own conduct on social media platforms. Take for example his views on allowing free speech on Twitter. Initially, Musk identified himself as a “free-speech absolutist.” Now, he says that “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”

One doesn’t know if Musk will have a hands-off approach to policing the platform which will embolden purveyors of hate speech, bullying and disinformation to ratchet up their bad behaviour against women, minorities, and other marginalised groups. Will Musk take concrete actions to ensure that Twitter doesn’t become more toxic and chaotic than it is today? His own track record on Twitter belies the change in stance.

For example, in 2018, he called a British caver who helped to rescue trapped young Thai divers “a pedo guy”. In February, he tweeted a meme comparing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler. He has even backed controversial personalities including former US President Donald Trump and, more recently, American rapper Kanye West despite their improper behaviour on social media platforms.

Advertising is another area where Musk has changed his views. For years, Musk has said he “despises spending money on advertising”. Musk’s electric vehicle company Tesla does not produce TV commercials or place social media ads like other automakers. But now he says “Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise…  it is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs.” Has Musk suddenly understood the benefits of advertising or is he playing to the investor gallery?

These contradictions raise doubts over Musk’s true intent behind acquiring Twitter. Does he truly want to make a change for the better or has he just purchased the loudest megaphone to push his own agenda? This should prompt policymakers to consider the regulation of social media platforms to prevent a few powerful individuals from controlling the narrative on ethical, political and social issues.

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