In a move that feels like it was ripped from the pages of a Batman comic, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has purchased Twitter.
According to The New York Times, Twitter has reached an agreement with Musk after Musk offered to purchase the social media giant for roughly $44 billion and take the company private less than two weeks ago. Earlier this month, Musk took a 9% stake in Twitter, making him the single largest shareholder. After a failed attempt at joining Twitter’s board, Musk has opted to buy the company outright.
Musk’s express motivation for taking over the social media platform is to promote free speech.
“Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy,” Musk tweeted on March 25 alongside a Twitter poll. “Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”
“The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully,” Musk added. Of the more than 2 million responses, over 70% said, “No.”
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” Musk tweeted the next day. “What should be done?”
Many of Musk’s followers responded by encouraging him to simply buy Twitter. It appears that he was listening.
As online hate speech and misinformation have resulted in real life consequences in recent years, social media platforms have been increasingly called upon to regulate speech that may be harmful, hateful, or that could lead to physical violence. The question that has arisen from that call is what kind of speech social media platforms should categorize as dangerous.
To the mind of many on the political right, social media platforms like Twitter have disproportionately policed conservative voices while failing to apply the same level of scrutiny to left-wing speech.
For example, former president Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter following the riot at the U.S. Capitol building for incendiary tweets containing false information that many feel were a contributing factor in the violence that took place on January 6, 2021.