Among the most urgent questions facing Twitter in its new era as a private company under Elon Musk, a self-declared “free speech absolutist”, is how the platform will handle moderation.
After finalizing his takeover and ousting senior leadership, Musk declared on Friday that he would be forming a new “content moderation council” that would bring together “diverse views” on the issue.
“No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before the council convenes,” he tweeted.
But that hasn’t stopped users from cheering or criticizing what they expected to be a quick embrace of Musk’s pledges to cut back on moderation in an effort to promote free speech.
According to The Guardian concerns range from whether Musk will reinstate the account of Donald Trump who was banned from the platform following the 6 January capitol attack to whether a less-regulated platform will allow hate speech and disinformation to flourish further.
With the US midterms just days away, concerns about political misinformation are also taking on renewed urgency. Civil rights organizations have sounded the alarm about the proliferation of harmful content, an issue that Twitter already struggles with, while Republicans have celebrated the change in ownership.
“His acquisition of Twitter has opened Pandora’s box,” the advocacy group Ultraviolet said in a Friday statement, while also urging Musk, Twitter executives and the company’s board of directors to continue to enforce the ban on Trump “as well as violent right-wing extremists and white supremacists”.
Musk has tried to play down fears, particularly among the advertisers he will depend on to keep the company afloat. General Motors has already said it will “pause” ads on the site as it weighs what direction Musk will take, and other companies could follow suit.
In a message this week to Twitter’s advertising clients, Musk said that the platform “obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape” and the platform must be “warm and welcoming to all”.
Dear Twitter Advertisers pic.twitter.com/GMwHmInPAS
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 27, 2022
But many began testing the limits of the site just hours after the billionaire took the helm.
On Friday, conservative personalities began recirculating long-debunked conspiracy theories, including about Covid-19 and the 2020 election, as means of gauging whether Twitter’s policies on misinformation were still being enforced.
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