Elon Musk buying Twitter proves once more why ignorance is bliss

Changing social content moderation is apparently harder than just buying the whole company

(Kristen Frier)

Art by Kristen Frier

I don’t know what’s up with Elon Musk these days. The billionaire owns Tesla and SpaceX, hosted Saturday Night Live, and even spoke with Tom Cruise to shoot an action movie in space someday. And now, he’s bought the majority of the shares in Twitter

Musk buying Twitter gives plenty of reasons to worry because it shows how ignorant the tech giant is about the awful realities of social media. 

Last week, Musk made a deal with Twitter to buy the social platform for USD $44 billion after officially making his offer on April 13. He unpacked a host of goals for the company like adding a new edit button and relieving the platform of spam bots. 

There had already been tons of mixed opinions from politicians, users, and critics about the deal possibly enabling online toxicity, trolling, and misinformation. This news became more polarizing among Twitter staff over how it might ruin years of trying to address these problems.

The reactions to Musk’s latest move mainly came from his plan to privatize Twitter and to feature more relaxed rules for regulating online content for the sake of free speech. In a TED talk, Musk assured people that national laws would still be followed under his leadership. He remained adamant in respecting the rights of Twitter users to post their views and beliefs.

“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 in a tweet.

Musk and his futurist rhetoric only show the depths of his ignorance by treating Twitter like a utopian project to spearhead, rather than a chance to significantly improve internet safety. Justifying unregulated content over Twitter through free speech reflects how unaware Musk is of the societal, cultural, and political troubles negatively shaping social media today. 

Research studies from 2018 found that many marginalized users, including women and other non-conforming identities, said they were ready to quit social media due to online harassment that caused them to experience various mental health issues. The results overall argued that Twitter under Musk would suppress the voices of minorities rather than support them. 

Human rights activists have evoked similar sentiments about the deal’s potential to be a catalyst for hate speech. In the face of these fears, advocate Deborah Brown stressed Twitter’s moral obligation to protect users from harm, no matter who’s in charge of the company. 

The concerns regarding Musk’s purchase of Twitter are warranted, especially when it comes to the welfare of marginalized groups. He doesn’t understand the stakes involved for those already being hurt by egregious commentary online. 

It’s easy for the richest man in the world to see Twitter as just another business opportunity. Stopping online hate or harassment across social media is important now more than ever. Despite all his money and power, Musk can’t seem to get on board with such an obvious priority. 

No matter your take on this latest news in tech, Musk owning Twitter is, unfortunately, a part of our expansively surreal reality. It would have been nice if he’d just stuck to helping Tom Cruise make his action movie in space instead.