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elon musk twitter.JPG
Photo Credit: Reuters
elon musk twitter.JPG
Photo Credit: Reuters
USA News

Christian social media expert concerned about Elon Musk’s free speech on Twitter promise

by Tola Mbakwe

Concerns about the degree to which free speech should be regulated have resurfaced after tech mogul Elon Musk has closed a deal to buy Twitter for £34.5 billion.

Musk, the world’s richest person, made the transaction on Monday.

Discussions over the deal, which last week appeared uncertain, accelerated over the weekend, after Musk wooed Twitter shareholders with financing details of his offer.

Under pressure, Twitter started negotiating with Musk to buy the company at the proposed $54.20 per share price.

Musk’s vow to “defeat spam bots” and make Twitter’s algorithm public, has been welcomed by many, including Matt Batten, director of communication and engagement at Diocese of Llandaff Church in Wales.

“There's a part of me that is quite pleased, because I think he has committed to an edit button and he's committed to putting the algorithms out publicly, so we can understand the platform,” he told Premier.

“So there's a bit of transparency, he's going forward here and he's also said that he wants to get rid of spam bots and authenticate humans. So for me that is a plus.”

However, Batten said his scepticism about Musk’s plans arises when it comes to free speech.

Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, has criticised Twitter's content moderation policy.

He said in a statement. “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."

Batten told Premier: “All sounds fantastic… and we champion democracy, but whose freedom of speech?

"Because actually moderation on social media is not a bad thing for democracy. It keeps people safe and there is a fine line between the power of social media to enhance the dialogue and allow us to have an opinion and share what's going on in the world, than actually suppressing, maybe elevating hate, and calling that freedom of speech.

"That’s when I would have a big problem.”

Political activists also expect that Musk's ownership of Twitter will mean less moderation and the reinstatement of banned individuals, including former U.S.President Donald Trump and there are questions on what the deal will mean for Twitter's China content policy, as Musk's Tesla relies heavily on China for production and vehicle sales.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezoz tweeted on Monday: “Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?”

"My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter," he later tweeted.

Musk said in a tweet on Monday: "I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means."

China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday, there was no basis to speculate that Beijing could try to use leverage over Tesla in order to influence content on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Batten told Premier regardless of what free speech policy is in place; Christians should use the free speech responsibly.

“I think freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom to hate, or to insult others.

First of all, you can have an opinion, but that doesn't mean you do it at a disadvantage of somebody else, and you hate or humiliate someone online, because that really isn't the Christian way.

There's no evidence that Jesus has humiliated anyone in his preaching, so why would we model something other than that, I think that would be worrying. For churches, it is a good thing, you can share your opinion, you just do it within the boundaries of Christian values, which is love and kindness.”

Contributed reporting from Reuters

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