Elon Musk says
Twitter is the digital town square. Town squares, historically, are public
spaces where people from all walks of life can come and have their say. It was
the Earl of Bedford who built the first private-venture town square — the
plaza. Since then, the nature of the town square has undergone severe changes
and now comes in a pocket-friendly touchscreen. But the public town square going
private and the publicly-held digital town square going to the world’s
wealthiest man has implications for all.
Twitter has opened a Pandora’s box of concerns about how the social media
darling will treat his own social media network. There are questions on whether
Musk will retain a board at his new company, how content will be moderated on
the social platform and whether or not will Twitter finally get an edit button, which has been in the works for a while.
All these are
major changes for the product itself, but some of the changes have greater
impact than others. For example, the content moderating team on Twitter has the
capacity to cause or pause communal conflagrations and stop or spread
disinformation with grave geopolitical conflict or provide a platform to climate change deniers.
When such power is
invested in a publicly-traded company, there is at a chance that even while
profit is the prime mover, shareholders may step and ask the company to play a
particular role. With power invested in a greater number of people, the opportunity
for alternative voices to come through remains.
Such is not
expected to be the case in Elon Musk’s Twitter, which could turn into the
billionaire’s private fiefdom. Right before Musk’s Twitter deal went through,
one of the first questions asked in public fora was if former United States
President Donald Trump was going to stage a comeback on the platform.
quickly dissipated the rumours. While Trump is said to be close to Musk, the
former US president told Fox News Monday that he is not going to Twitter but will
stay on TRUTH. “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it
and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH,” he said.
Donald Trump was removed
from Twitter after his tweets allegedly fuelled the January 6 insurrection at
the US Capitol.
After the deal
went through, Musk put up a post jointly with Twitter which said: “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,” said Musk.
“I also want to
make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features,
making the algorithm’s open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots
and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look
forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it,”