Will free speech mean more hate speech on Twitter under Elon Musk?

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Will free speech mean more hate speech on Elon Musk’s Twitter?

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Musk, who earned $44 billion. deal Buy Twitter on Monday, is a libertarian and self-proclaimed supporter of free speech. absolutist”, who made it clear that he supports a more unbridled expression on Twitter.

Once he gets control of Twitter, will the richest man in the world welcome extremists? prohibited for spreading hatred, violence and lies in recent years?

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“It’s only a matter of time before Elon flips the switch and we get our accounts back,” one QAnon influencer wrote on the Telegram social network.

Experts aren’t sure Musk is ready to go back to business at full capacity, but they are concerned that a platform already rife with misinformation and harassment could get worse, or simply revert to an earlier version of Twitter where oversight was minimal and harassment was common. .

After the ban on Twitter, extremists moved to social networks such as Gab and Telegram, where there is less content moderation, but also fewer subscribers. Some seem flippant at the prospect of regaining access to the main platform, which gives them significantly more reach.

“I would rather be active on Twitter and be dead in the real world than be banned from Twitter and alive,” white supremacist Nick Fuentes, who was banned from Twitter last year, tweeted on Monday.

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“This has real implications for all of us,” said Bridget Todd, writer and host of the program. podcast “There are no girls on the Internet.” “It’s not just a problem for marginalized people, it’s a problem for all of us.”

Elon Musk may lift the ban on extremists

Over the past few years, Twitter has implemented several massive bans on extremist and hateful people and groups.

In 2016 the platform blocked several famous users, including Richard Spencer, then the chief spokesman for the white supremacist “alt-right” movement. In 2018, Twitter banned dozens of far-right figures, including Gavin McInnesfounder of the extremist group Proud Boys, and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Elon Musk's Twitter profile with over 83 million followers

Another delete accounts emerged after the January 6, 2021 uprising, including the banning of dozens of supporters of the Stop theft campaign, which claims the 2020 election was stolen. And earlier this year, Republican Congressman Marjorie Taylor Green’s personal account has been blocked for repeatedly sharing misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greene wrote on her official Twitter account: “Bring back President Trump. Get my personal account back. Bring back Dr. Robert Malone. Bring back Alex Jones. Bring back Milo Yiannopoulos. Bring back the canceled nation. Bring back freedom of speech. Bring back America!”

More content moderation, more complaints from conservatives

Twitter’s more aggressive content moderation policy has led to complaints that the social media platform is censoring conservative voices and viewpoints.

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Now observers are wondering if Musk will welcome extremist Twitter accounts and what the effect of bringing back those accounts will be. Experts warn that weakening content moderation could do real harm and drown out the voices of the marginalized.

“Musk’s free speech concept is that people can express odious, hateful, or even targeted insults to other users.” said Emerson Brooking, Resident Senior Scientist at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “Twitter has so far held to a different definition of free speech, this idea that by reducing harassment and open hatred, you create an opportunity for as many voices as possible to express themselves.”

Todd said she was deeply troubled by Musk’s past. business practices and his claims of freedom of speech “absolutism”. She fears that a platform already hostile to marginalized communities will only get worse under Musk’s leadership.

“In particular, black women are disproportionately targeted by things like conspiracy theories, disinformation and online harassment, and this makes it difficult for black women to do things like run for office and keep their voices out on political issues.” said Todd. “When our social media platforms – our places for public discussion – are not places where everyone can meaningfully express themselves, it means we don’t have a functional democracy.”

But Brooking doubts that Musk will bring back the voices of extremists, although they may return under the guise of new anonymous identities.

“Even with the change in ownership, I don’t see Musk opening the floodgates for Nazis and white supremacists,” he said.

Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigator with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he is holding off on judging Musk until he sees how he runs Twitter.

In theory, some of the ideas Musk has put forward for the platform make a lot of sense and could lead to less, not more hate content, according to Hayden. Musk will also have to balance content moderation with the impact his actions could have on his other companies, Hayden said.

“We will see what happens when he takes charge and his name and his brands, including Tesla, will also be associated with people like Stéphane Molyneuxwho has repeatedly used this platform to argue that non-white people are predisposed to being less intelligent than whites,” Hayden said.

Fears that Twitter will be free speech only for “geeks”

Daryl Lamont Jenkins, an activist who has tracked extremists for decades, said he was skeptical of Musk’s defense of free speech.

Twitter is sure to become a more hostile environment for people of color, Jews, and the LGBT community, he said, if known extremists and people who incite hatred online are allowed to return.

On Monday, Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for about $44 billion, promising a softer approach to content control on the platform, where he promotes his interests, attacks critics and speaks out on social and economic issues to more than 83 million followers.

“The guys who always seem to be the loudest defenders of free speech have been the most dishonest about it,” Jenkins said. “They seem to only advocate free speech for jerks – people who want to try to cause the most harm and try to undermine the freedoms of others.”

Feeling hopeful or worried about the future of Twitter? Share your thoughts with USA TODAY using the form below.

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