Twitter accepted Elon Musk’s buyout offer for $44 billion yesterday and as expected, there have been varying opinions about the development. Following the Monday announcement, various human rights groups have raised concerns about Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter.
Elon Musk says he wants to make changes to Twitter and the crux of these changes is that he wants Twitter to uphold free speech. In the past, he criticized Twitter for hindering free speech.
These human rights groups are concerned about the kind of power that Elon Musk will be wielding as the owner of Twitter. Right after the deal was announced, Anthony Romero, the executive director at the American Civil Liberties Union said that “While Elon Musk is an ACLU card-carrying member and one of our most significant supporters, there’s a lot of danger having so much power in the hands of any one individual.”
Amnesty International, another human rights group, raised concerns about how Elon Musk’s “free speech” plan may eradicate the policies and efforts already in place to combat or at least moderate hate speech on the platform. According to Michael Kleinman, the director of technology and human rights at Amnesty International USA, “The last thing we need is a Twitter that willfully turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including women, non-binary persons, and others.”
“Regardless of who owns Twitter, the company has human rights responsibilities to respect the rights of people around the world who rely on the platform. Changes to its policies, features, and algorithms, big and small, can have disproportionate and sometimes devastating impacts, including offline violence. Freedom of expression is not an absolute right, which is why Twitter needs to invest in efforts to keep its most vulnerable users safe on the platform,” Deborah Brown, a digital rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch, wrote in an email to Reuters.
Twitter and Elon Musk are yet to address these concerns from these human rights groups.
Prior to Twitter accepting Elon Musk’s bid, the National Urban League also raised some concerns about the deal. Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League said that Twitter’s board should consider rejecting Elon Musk’s bid for the company, as owning the company could mean causing damage to the safety of Twitter users. As seen in a letter he sent to Bret Taylor, the Chairman of Twitter’s board, Marc Morial said that Elon Musk’s views surrounding social media and Twitter to be exact raise a lot of concerns. According to him, Elon Musk’s views are in contrast to principles such as creating a safe online community, protecting marginalized groups, and the democracy of the nation, which guide social media companies like Twitter.
“Without key protections and safeguards, much of the concerning activities that we see on Twitter, including white supremacist propaganda, racial and religious hatred, voter suppression through election disinformation, algorithmic bias and discrimination, and the hardening of our national discourse are likely to proliferate under Musk’s ownership. The potential to negatively impact millions directly and our nation’s culture and democracy indirectly are exponential and should be part of your analysis in reviewing this — or any other — offer of purchase,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, former US President Donald Trump who is permanently banned from Twitter said he’ll not be coming back to the platform if the company chooses to lift the ban on his account under Elon Musk’s leadership.