Elon Musk’s Twitter Test
The world’s richest person will be free to emasculate Twitter's content restrictions in the name of free speech if that is what he wishes to do. But he may reconsider once he realizes the great responsibility that digital freedom now implies.
LONDON – With Elon Musk set to buy Twitter for $44 billion, commentators are scrambling to understand what the “free speech absolutism” espoused by the world’s richest person will mean for the platform. But the principle could also create headaches for Musk himself.
With the European Union and the United Kingdom about to enact laws aimed at making social media safer and more accountable, Musk has seemingly chosen a bad time to roll back content moderation on Twitter. In fact, despite officials’ threats, Musk will be able to emasculate the platform’s content restrictions in the name of free speech if that is what he wishes to do. But he may reconsider once he realizes that this freedom will soon mean greater accountability.
Today, Twitter prohibits a wide range of legal but objectionable content, including posts expressing the hope that someone comes to harm, or which contain “excessively” violent images, and content that “disrupts people’s experience.” And, of course, Twitter has banned controversial high-profile users like former US President Donald Trump. Musk wants to change this, with Twitter banning only illegal content.