By Jessica Johnson
The richest man in the world recently claimed his stake in the social media world this past Monday, buying Twitter for $44 billion and causing users and executives to go into a frenzy.
Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO of Tesla, has plans to make Twitter’s company promote more free speech on the platform and encourage more users to have an active political voice.
“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk tweeted, April 25.
According to CNN, Musk wants to “make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” He also discussed that he wanted to reform Twitter DMs, by implementing an encryption-like signal to avoid hacking of users’ messages.
There are many problems with Musk buying Twitter.
Musk is known by users to share memes, argue with politicians, and even call out different news outlets. He also has been controversial for leading users to believe he spread misinformation about COVID-19. He also has made some racy comments toward the LGBT community. As Twitter in the past has not had the tightest restrictions on transphobic harassment, many are worried the new changes Musk is making with free speech will allow a broader anti-transgender platform for discriminatory users. For someone who tweeted, “Pronouns suck,” July 24, 2020 to buy Twitter, it’s hard for users to have faith that regardless of Musk’s beliefs there will be equal representation and safety for all users.
There also are concerns about rollbacks on Twitter’s previous agenda to stop hate speech, harassment, misinformation, extreme explicit content, and more. Previous founder Jack Dorsey had previously passed the CEO torch to Parag Agrawal, and the board of Twitter is in a time of uncertainty. According to Time magazine, “Musk will have the power to transform the board and fire key individuals who don’t align with his vision for the platform.”
As Musk has made public comments on how he does not have confidence in the management team of the company, he may choose to completely revamp the entire board. It leaves the employees in disarray of what may happen next.
As users voice their concerns of Musk buying Twitter, one of the main critics is Musk not allocating some of his funds to help serious social issues, such as the Flint water crisis of April 2014, where residents did not have clean drinking water for a long period of time, and were not getting adequate help from the federal government. One user @JoshuaPotash stated, “One example that really summarizes Elon Musk is when he said he’d fix all the lead pipes in Flint and just donated water filters to 12 schools instead.”
Another issue that could have been helped by Musk is the existence of youth homelessness, specifically LGBT, that continues to be a growing problem. Some of the millions out of billions Musk has could have been donated to different outreach organizations for adequate housing, reformative programs, safety and education. Another twitter user, @It’sDanaWhite said, “Working in homelessness, youth homelessness, while watching one man spend $44 billion is a mindf—k.”
Regardless of the critiques Musk has been getting online, he seems to be taking the punch backs very lightly. He shared a meme a day ago, of a fake tweet of him saying, “Now I’m going to buy McDonalds and fix all the ice cream machines,” with the caption, “Listen, I can’t do miracles, ok.”
Referring to the original 1885 soda invented by John Pemberton, that contained extract of a coca leaf, Musk also tweeted that same night, “Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in.”
Musk can joke all he wants about these things, but at the same time the platform of Twitter and the attributes it offers to its users is no joke. Users go on to Twitter because it is a safe space for creators, for conversations, and to see the daily news in the funniest ways. Users make memes viral on the app, use it for daily happiness, and relate to each other daily.
With Musk as the head of the platform, who knows what’s next. According to his plan,
“For Twitter to deserve public trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally; the extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all.”