ELON MUSK HAS said that, as the owner of Twitter, he would lift the ban on Donald Trump, claiming that kicking the former US president off the platform “turned away a large part of the country”.
Musk’s endorsement of Trump’s return to the global messaging platform sparked fears among activists that Musk would “open the floodgates of hate.”
“I would reverse the permanent ban,” the billionaire told a Financial Times conference, noting that he doesn’t own Twitter yet, so “this is definitely not something that will happen.”
Trump has publicly stated that he would not return to Twitter if allowed, opting instead to stick with his own social network, which has failed to gain ground.
The Tesla chief’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter has yet to win the backing of shareholders and regulators, but he has expressed enthusiasm for less content moderation and “timeouts” rather than bans.
Trump was banned from Twitter and other online platforms after his supporters, fired up by his tweets and speech alleging voter fraud, attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a deadly attempt to prevent that Joe Biden was certified as the winner of the US presidential election.
“I think it was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and ultimately didn’t result in Donald Trump having no voice,” Musk said.
Musk argued that the permanent bans undermine trust in Twitter as a public online plaza where everyone can be heard.
“Elon Musk would open the floodgates of hate and misinformation on Twitter,” said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America.
“Whether Elon Musk is a completely red right-wing radical or just someone very interested in enabling right-wing extremists, the result is the same.”
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) backed Musk’s view.
“Elon Musk’s decision to change President Trump’s platform is the right decision,” said the organization’s director, Anthony Romero.
“Whether we like it or not, President Trump is one of the most important political figures in this country, and the public has a vested interest in hearing his speech.”
Romero noted that some of the tweets that caused Trump’s controversy ended up as evidence in lawsuits against the former president by the ACLU and others.
Musk reasoned that permanent bans on Twitter should be rare and reserved for accounts that are spam, scams, or run by software “bots.”
“That doesn’t mean someone can say whatever they want to say,” Musk said.
“If they say something that is illegal or just destructive to the world, then maybe there should be a timeout, a temporary ban, or that particular tweet should be made invisible or have very limited traction.”
Activist groups have called on Twitter advertisers to boycott the service if it opens the door to abusive and misinformation posts owned by Musk.
“Under Musk’s stewardship, Twitter risks becoming a cesspool of misinformation, with his brand attached,” said an open letter signed by more than two dozen groups, including Media Matters, Access Now and Ultraviolet.
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Twitter makes most of its revenue from ads, and that could be compromised by advertisers’ reaction to content posted on the platform, the San Francisco-based tech firm said in a filing with US regulators. .
“We believe that our long-term success depends on our ability to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the company said in a regulatory filing.
Efforts toward that goal include fighting abuse, harassment and spam, Twitter told regulators.
“Elon Musk owes the world a better explanation of how the platform will deal with the likes of Trump than an edict that his ouster was wrong because he was unpopular in some quarters,” said Suzanne Nossel, director of the rights nonprofit. humans PEN America.
The Knight Foundation said a poll it commissioned found only 41% of adults in the United States believe Trump was deprived of free speech rights by social media platforms that banned him.
“People died because of Donald Trump’s Twitter account,” said Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy adviser at Muslim Advocates.
“I am terrified of what else would be allowed under Musk’s watch.”
© AFP 2022