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On Monday, Twitter said it had agreed to sell itself to the Tesla CEO in a deal valued at roughly $44 billion. After the story broke, Musk took to the platform to voice his excitement.
“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,” Musk said. “Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo is displayed on a smartphone with Elon Musk’s official Twitter profile. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
While Musk on numerous occasions has characterized himself as pro-free speech and criticized Twitter for failing to live up to its responsibilities to promote open online discussion, critics of the company’s soon-to-be new owner sounded the alarm on the impact Twitters’ shakeup could have on users.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber was mocked on Twitter after “The Beat” host questioned Musk’s motives and warned that Twitter could now be used to censor members of a specific political party and influence elections—something that has long been a point of concern for conservatives and Republican lawmakers with its past left-leaning management.
“If you own all of Twitter or Facebook or what have you, you don’t have to explain yourself, you don’t even have to be transparent, you could secretly ban one party’s candidate or all of its candidates, all of it nominees,” Melber said. “Or you could just secretly turn down the reach of their stuff and turn up the reach of something else and the rest of us might not even find about it til after the election.”
SpaceX founder Elon Musk smiles at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper and file photo of the Twitter app icon . (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File/REUTERS/Joe Skipper)
Fellow MSNBC host Joy Reid criticized Musk’s characterization of himself as a “free speech absolutist” during a discussion with political analyst Anand Giridharadas.
“Well first of all that’s BS, because [Musk] has a long history of literally threatening to sue bloggers who say things he doesn’t like about him or who post things about Tesla,” Reid said.
Giridharadas responded that there have been “modest” and “slight efforts” by Big Tech companies to solve the “actual free speech issue” of Twitter users getting harassed, doxxed and threatened “for the crime of being female, of color, or both.” Giridharadas insinuated that Musk could make this issue worse.
NBC News also appeared concerned over how Musk’s Twitter deal could impact certain segments of the population. During a pre-taped interview, correspondent Jo Ling Kent flatly asked Rebellion PAC Director Brianna Wu if she “trusts” Elon Musk to make Twitter “better for women.”
“No, I don’t trust Elon Musk to make Twitter better for women at all,” Wu replied. “If you’re asking yourself if this is someone that’s going to go to bat for someone that’s underrepresented I just don’t think that’s going to be the case, unfortunately.”
Over on ABC’s “The View,” co-host Sunny Hostin said that Musk was planning to “unleash the trolls” and tell them that he is going to “take away the guardrails” so they can say whatever they want.
“It seems to me that it’s about free speech of straight white men—and so let them have it,” Hostin added.
In a separate interview on CBS, correspondent Nikki Battiste asked technology reporter Dan Patterson if there could be “any danger in a Twitter owned by Elon Musk?”
“Misinformation and disinformation could be amplified considerably,” Patterson said. ” The reality of an Elon Musk owned Twitter is that a number of these bad actors could run rampant across the social network.”