The UK government has urged Elon Musk to ‘clean up’ Twitter, after the social media company accepted his bid to buy the company in a £34.5 billion deal.
Tory MP Damian Collins, chair of the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill, said the billionaire must address the spam bot accounts that disrupt genuine debate if he wanted to follow through on his pledge to support free speech on Twitter.
Collins has been key in scrutinising the Online Safety Bill, which contains the government’s proposed new rules for safety on the internet.
“Elon Musk calls Twitter the digital town square, but it has become a place where free speech is drowned out by coordinated armies of bot accounts spreading disinformation and division,” he said.
“Twitter is a place where many users feel inhibited from expressing themselves, because of the hate and abuse they will receive.
“This digital town square is currently not a place of genuine debate, but a forum where campaigns, sometimes backed by agencies of the Russian state, seek to game Twitter’s algorithms to promote their world views and suppress any voices which dissent from it.”
“If Elon Musk wants to really make Twitter about free speech, he will need to clean up the digital town square.”
Read more: Elon Musk to acquire Twitter for $44bn
Reaction to the takeover has been mixed, with industry experts, Twitter users and media commentators raising concerns about the Tesla’s boss’ stance as a “free speech absolutist”.
Many fear that this could lead to a further loosening of current content moderation rules as Musk takes the social media platform into private ownership.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has welcomed the takeover, despite saying that he doesn’t “believe anyone should own or run Twitter” in principle.
“It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company,” he said.
“Solving for the problem of it being a company however, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.”
A statement from Downing Street said that “regardless of ownership, all social media platforms must be responsible”, which includes “protecting users from harm”.
Musk has responded to the critics and concerns on Twitter, defending his move and saying: “The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all.”
I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2022