“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Tesla founder Elon Musk in his tweet late on Thursday local time after his deal to buy Twitter was confirmed.
Elon Musk signed a deal to buy the microblogging site for $44 billion.
But why is Elon Musk buying Twitter? What’s in it for him?
Billionaire Elon Musk, who heads electric car company Tesla, aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and The Boring Company, said in a recent TED Talk after announcing his bid to buy the microblogging site which has more than 200 million users globally: “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilisation.”
How much is he paying for it and what does he plan to do with it?
Musk is shelling out $44 billion for the until-recently-publicly-listed company at $54.20 a share. He plans to take the site private. In a tweet posted after the deal announcement, Musk said: I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the products with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. In the TED Talk, he had said: “I don’t care about the economics at all.”
What does it mean for free speech, given that free speech also comes with hate speech – an issue that every social media platform is struggling to contain?
In the TED Talk, Musk admitted that he doesn’t have all the solutions. “Well, I think we would want to err on the, if in doubt, let the speech, let it exist,” he said. “But obviously in a case where there’s perhaps a lot of controversy, you’re not necessarily going to promote that tweet. I’m not saying I have all the answers here,” he added.
What’s the connection between being privately held and ensuring freedom of speech?
There is no direct correlation between the two, according to Pranav Srivastava, Partner, Phoenix Legal. “The only difference would be that instead of control of the current public shareholders, Musk would then be in a position of exercising control over Twitter’s content moderation rules.” It could, therefore, just mean that once he acquires Twitter, he will relax its content moderation rules to, what he believes, is more free-speech oriented.
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