““Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square””
That was Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discussing his recent offer to buy Twitter
for $43 billion. Musk was discussing his views on free speech and his Twitter bid in front of a crowd at a TED Conference.
“So it is just really important that people have the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law,” Musk said.
Musk seemed to evade a question from TED’s Chris Anderson about how Twitter should monitor free speech concerns when they deal with violence and hate speech, things that Twitter has de-platformed users for in the past. Musk merely stated that free speech rules should mostly be regulated by the country the company operates in, and offered a more transparent algorithm as a solution.
Musk says he wants Twitter to have an “open source algorithm” to try to improve trust in the platform.
“Any changes to people’s tweets — if they’re emphasized or de-emphasized — that action should be made apparent,” he said. “So anyone can see that that action has been taken so there’s no sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually.”
Musk was asked by TED’s Chris Anderson if the board at Twitter decides to decline his $43 million offer, if there was a “plan B.” Musk replied, “there is.”
He seemed lukewarm on the chances that the Twitter board will accept his bid, but did mention that if he had to pay in cash that he “could technically afford it.”
If Musk’s Twitter takeover bid fails, 29 people have enough money to buy the company. Twitter board members have not specifically said they are looking for a person or entity to buy the company.
Musk finished his thoughts about Twitter by saying he is more concerned about his views of the platform and free speech, and less about the business of Twitter.
“My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization,” Musk said. “I don’t care about the economics at all.”
A lot of people have been talking about free speech in relation to this buyout bid, so here is some information on what free speech in the U.S. means. For example, freedom of speech does not include the right to “incite imminent lawless action” or “make or distribute obscene materials.”