Twitter Users Don’t Think Protecting Free Speech Is the Real Reason Elon Musk Bought Twitter For $44 Billion

Elon Musk is CEO and Product Architect of Tesla, Director of SpaceX, and Chairman of SolarCity. Musk has been described as “the world’s pre-eminent inventor,” but that may be since he’s the only one to send a car to space! His other ventures include Zip2, PayPal, and SolarCity. 

On April 4th, 2022, Musk announced that he had acquired 9.1% of Twitter. The billionaire businessman made an offer of $44 billion to purchase the company and Twitter has accepted the offer. So why is Musk willing to spend this kind of money on Twitter, and why do Twitter users think he’s doing it?

Elon Musk smiling
Elon Musk | Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIME

Why Elon Musk bought Twitter

Musk wanted to acquire Twitter to “build a social network that doesn’t censor anyone.” Speaking to TED 2022, Musk says, “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it is just really important that people have the reality and the perception that they can speak freely within the bounds of the law.” 

Musk also noted that he was not in it for the money and that acquiring the platform may prove difficult. He says, “This is not a way to make money; my strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization; I don’t care about the economics at all.” 

Some Twitter doesn’t think free speech is Musk’s only motivation

Many Twitter users opposed Musk’s purchase of the platform and questioned what the billionaire means when he talks about protecting free speech. Many users expressed concern about what this could mean, as Musk has a track record of shutting down speech that is in opposition to his own interests.

For instance, Musk’s belief in free speech when it comes to his workers seems more limited, as CNBC reports Musk requires departing Tesla employees to sign agreements with a non-disparagement clause with no end date, which, while not uncommon in the industry, suggests he doesn’t believe free speech should apply liberally to workers. In addition to this policy, Musk has tried to control members of the free press by requesting reporters sign NDAs and send drafts of stories prior to publishing, a very uncommon practice in journalism.

Because of his record, many Twitter users questioned how much of his purchase was about free speech and how much of his purchase is about limiting his own critics. Following his purchase of Twitter, images of Elon Musk with convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell flooded the platform with captions like “post this while you still can,” as Musk isn’t too happy the photo exists and has claimed he had no connection to Maxwell several times, according to The Daily Beast.

Many users believe the site will change drastically and limit the speech of his critics, while other users are concerned he might allow banned users, like former President Donald Trump, back on the platform. While many users were unhappy, many others were excited to see someone with a vocal commitment to the first amendment protected free speech take over the company.

Musk’s plans for Twitter

According to Musk, his plans for Twitter can only be implemented if the platform is private. These include introducing a controversial edit feature, making the algorithm open-source, minimal tweet moderation, and a higher standard for the removal of bots and offensive tweets. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Musk hopes to make Twitter an “open-source algorithm” to improve it. The business personality also adds that the deal is motivated by an attempt to create a “healthy democracy” like the United States. 

Moreover, Musk plans to have users understand how the Twitter algorithm works and be informed of any changes being made. “I won’t personally be in there editing tweets, but you would know if something was done,” he said. 

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