Elon Musk Declares Twitter “Content Moderation Council”
How Twitter will approach moderation is one of the most pressing issues it must address in its new age as a private corporation run by Elon Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist.”
Musk announced on Friday that he would be establishing a new “content moderation council” that would bring together “diverse views” on the matter after completing his takeover and removing senior leadership.
Before the council meets, “no major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen,” he tweeted.
Users have nevertheless praised or criticized what they had anticipated would be a swift acceptance of Musk’s promises to reduce moderation in order to advance free speech.
Concerns vary from whether Musk will reinstate Donald Trump’s account, who was banned from the platform after the attack on the congressional building on January 6, to whether a less controlled platform will encourage the spread of hate speech and misinformation.
Concerns over political misinformation are gaining significance as we approach the US midterm elections. Republicans have praised the change in ownership while civil rights organizations have raised concerns about the spread of hateful content, a problem that Twitter already faces.
The advocacy organization Ultraviolet urged Musk, Twitter executives, and the company’s board of directors to continue enforcing the ban on Trump “as well as violent right-wing extremists and white supremacists” in a statement released on Friday.
Particularly among the marketers he would rely on to keep the business solvent, Musk has tried to allay concerns. As it considers the course that Musk will take, General Motors has already announced that it will “pause” ads on the platform. Other businesses may follow suit.
Musk stated that the network must be “warm and welcoming to all” in a message sent this week to Twitter’s advertising clients, adding that it “obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape.”
Dear Twitter Advertisers pic.twitter.com/GMwHmInPAS
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 27, 2022
Just hours after the billionaire assumed control, though, numerous users started pushing the site’s boundaries.
Conservative figures started spreading long-debunked conspiracy theories on Friday to see if Twitter’s anti-misinformation guidelines were still being followed. These theories included those involving Covid-19 and the 2020 election.
Popular right-wing pundits tweeted catchphrases like “Trump won” and “ivermectin” to test if they would be punished. Some Republican lawmakers and conservative talk show broadcasters have marketed the inexpensive medicine ivermectin as an effective Covid medication, although medical professionals have expressed grave concerns.
“Ok, @elonmusk, is this thing on..?” Trump adviser Steve Cortes, a former pundit for the conservative television network Newsmax, tweeted. “There are two sexes Trump won ivermectin rocks.”
Ok, @elonmusk, is this thing on 🎤?
THERE ARE TWO SEXES
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) October 28, 2022
Numerous extreme identities, some of which were recently created, disseminated racial slurs and Nazi symbols while expressing admiration for Musk. The New York Times stated that researchers discovered a rise in new followers flocking to the accounts of prominent right-wing individuals in the 24 hours following Musk’s takeover.
What will happen to the social media platform and what it will accept are still up for debate. People who have been banned from the platform in the past are being watched to see who remains, leaves, and perhaps returns. They include former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and President Donald Trump; none of them have yet been on the platform again.
On Friday, the former president was eager to commend Musk. Trump wrote in a morning post on his social media platform Truth Social, “I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country,” though he hinted that he might not return to the platform despite Musk saying he would reverse Trump’s ban.
Senior politicians from the UK and Europe have asked Musk to take Twitter’s and its users’ needs seriously.
“In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules,” wrote Thierry Breton, commissioner for the EU’s internal market, on the platform on Friday. (Musk tweeted, “the bird is freed,” confirming his takeover of the company.)
In Europe, the bird will fly by our 🇪🇺 rules.#DSA https://t.co/95W3qzYsal
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) October 28, 2022
“Any decision on allowing suspended users to return must be taken incredibly carefully & in close consultation with experts in combating digital hate & misinformation,” tweeted London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Friday.
Musk received assistance from the Facebook Oversight Board, a panel of semi-independent specialists established to examine Facebook’s high-profile content judgments.
“Independent oversight of content moderation has a vital role to play in building trust in platforms and ensuring users are treated fairly,” the group tweeted on Friday. “We would welcome the opportunity to discuss Twitter’s plans in more detail with the company.
Independent oversight of content moderation has a vital role to play in building trust in platforms and ensuring users are treated fairly. This is a model we have been proving since 2020. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss Twitter's plans in more detail with the company. https://t.co/5EwIps748m
— Oversight Board (@OversightBoard) October 28, 2022
With little over 230 million users, Twitter has a much smaller user base than rivals like Facebook and TikTok. Although the platform continues to have a significant impact on celebrities, journalists, and politicians, many have cautioned that if it devolves into chaos, its relevance may diminish.
Some are advising users to take matters into their own hands and leave the network in favor of finding news and connections elsewhere.
Professor at Syracuse University and social media expert Jennifer Grygiel predicted a flight if the quality of a Musk-run Twitter decreased and says that would not be a terrible thing.
Grygiel stated, “Elon Musk bought a platform, he didn’t buy people. We retain to have a choice in how we consume news, information, and communication.”