Elon Musk has suggested that he wants to change how Twitter deals with freedom of speech, but Twitter employees say there’s a line that should not be crossed. Social media companies have been forced to debate and take action on issues related to freedom of speech in the U.S. for some time now. The capital riots, Trump’s inflammatory tweets, misinformation and hate speech have triggered controversies that have had real consequences.
Big social media companies like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok deploy an army of algorithms and moderators that screen endless postings in search of those that breach policies. Accounts have been suspended and shut down, and tweets have been used in FBI raids and cases, but still, what can, and cannot be said, is unclear by many. No freedom comes without responsibility, and freedom of speech is no exception to the rule.
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As reported by The Washington Post, Twitter employees want to grill Musk. Elon Musk bought his seat at the Twitter board table after purchasing 9.2 percent of the company’s stock. The first point of his agenda, even before the takeover, was freedom of speech. From COVID misinformation to the presidential election, discrimination, Proud Boys glorification and the social media attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement. Twitter employees have seen the real casualties of the freedom of speech war in America.
Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy.
Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2022
Cultural And Political Wars On Social Media
The Washington Post reported that Musk, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, and Twitter employees would have a sit down where “all questions will be answered.” The company’s employees are outraged by Musk’s takeover and fear the worst if an “absolute freedom of speech” policy is implemented. They are also concerned about the role Musk will play in the company and the power he has to change it.
Musk initially bought Twitter stocks, filing a Schedule 13G form with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Then he refiled the form and filed a Schedule 13D. The difference is not minor nor technical. Stock buyers filing 13G are passive and do not want to change how a company operates, while 13D are known as active investors. This means Musk has officially made it clear that he intends to push actively for changes.
According to The Washington Post, the 5,000 Twitter employees in San Francisco are known for “an extremely liberal and vocal corporate culture.” They are dedicated to fighting spam, misinformation and hate speech. On the other hand, Musk declares himself a free speech absolutist, who refuses to take down Starlink in Russia, battles SEC over his rights to tweet and is a harsh critic of almost everything, including the government. While Twitter executives assure Musk will not be in charge of major decisions and the company’s culture will remain the same, only time will tell how things play out. One thing is sure. It is unlikely Musk will stand idle in the next freedom of speech controversy.