Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of the massive social media platform has caused an uproar, as the Big Tech billionaire and entrepreneur has called himself a “free speech absolutist” and has vowed to turn Twitter into a haven for free speech.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy,” said Musk, who also expressed his wish to make the platform more transparent.
But this notion has come under fire, especially from the governments of Europe. The conservative-led government in the United Kingdom, in particular, is worried that the takeover may get in the way of Britain’s plans to expand its ability to censor speech online. (Related: Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase prompts conservatives to tweet previously censored messages as new censorship test for the platform.)
“Regardless of ownership, all social media platforms must be responsible,” warned a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “That includes protecting users from harm on their sites. It is too early to say what – if any – changes will be made to how Twitter operates.”
“It remains an important tool. It’s used by world leaders, and we will continue to work with them to make sure it continues to improve,” the spokesman added.
The British government is concerned that Musk’s takeover of Twitter might make it difficult to enforce its Online Safety Bill. This bill, brought before the House of Commons last month by the ruling Conservative Party, is intended to give the government more power to tackle supposed online harms.
This bill will force social media giants like Twitter to pre-emptively remove content that the British government considers harmful, regardless of whether or not the speech is legal. This includes instances of online bullying and the use of racist language.
The Online Safety Bill would also force social media platforms to be placed at the mercy of the Office of Communications, the country’s main media regulator.
Companies who refuse to self-censor so-called hateful speech on their platforms after the passage of the bill will be subject to fines of up to 10 percent of their global turnover. The top executives of these platforms will also be sanctioned and would also be eligible to serve time in jail if they continue to refuse to abide by the terms of the bill.
Free speech is not free at all, could cost Musk billions of euros
A similar situation is developing in the European Union. The 27-nation bloc’s Digital Services Act would require tech companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google to do more to police content the EU deems illegal or face up to billions of euros worth of fines.
Social media users in the EU would be allowed to flag illegal content in an “easy and effective way” so that social media platforms can easily remove the supposedly illegal content. The Digital Services Act is supposed to protect people from being exposed to commercial scams or the promotion of terrorism, but this process can easily be abused.
“Be it cars or social media, any company operating in Europe needs to comply with our rules – regardless of their shareholding,” wrote European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton on his Twitter account. “Mr. Musk knows this well. He is familiar with European rules on automotive, and will quickly adapt to the Digital Services Act.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, Breton added: “We welcome everyone. We are open but on our conditions. At least we know what to tell him: ‘Elon, there are rules. You are welcome, but these are our rules. It’s not your rules which will apply here.'”
Breton warned that if Musk wants to keep operating Twitter in Europe as soon as he takes over, the platform will have to meet the EU’s standards for content moderation, freedom of speech, transparency in rules, open algorithms and other obligations, including what to do when Twitter becomes host to content with hate speech, harassment and revenge porn.
“If [Twitter] does not comply with our laws, there are sanctions – six percent of the revenue and, if they continue, banned from operating in Europe,” said Breton.
In response to the EU and the U.K., Musk tweeted: “The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all.”
But then Musk clarified his position by stating that he will adhere to regulations regarding online content. “By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law,” he wrote.
“If people want less free speech, they will ask the government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”
Find more stories about online censorship at Censorship.news.
Watch this video from InfoWars showing the best responses from liberal and mainstream media outlets about Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
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