Human rights groups raised concerns about hate speech on Twitter and the power of its takeover by Elon Musk to give the billionaire after the self-described free speech absolutist clinched a deal to take the social media platform private.
Musk, who is also the chief executive of Tesla, described himself as a free speech absolutist who has been critical of Twitter's policies of moderating content on the platform. He said that Twitter needs to be a forum for free speech. Musk described free speech as the foundation of a functioning democracy after securing the deal on Monday. Human rights advocates noted that Twitter is not just another company. The company has a responsibility to respect the rights of people around the world who rely on the platform, regardless of who owns Twitter. Changes to policies, features and algorithms, big and small, can have disproportionate and sometimes devastating impacts, Deborah Brown, a digital rights researcher and advocate for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an email.
She said that the freedom of expression is not an absolute right, and that is why Twitter needs to invest in efforts to keep its most vulnerable users safe on the platform.
There was no immediate response from Twitter to a request for comment on concerns raised by the groups.
While Elon Musk is an ACLU card-carrying member and one of our most significant supporters, there is a lot of danger having so much power in the hands of any one individual, Anthony Romero, executive director at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Reuters after the deal was announced.
Amnesty International said it was concerned about any possible decision that Twitter might take after Musk took over to erode enforcement of policies and mechanisms designed to moderate hate speech online.
Michael Kleinman, the director of technology and human rights at Amnesty International USA, said on Monday that the last thing we need is a Twitter that willfully turns its blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including women, non-binary persons, and others.