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Elon Musk buying Twitter: What This Means For Free Speech and the Platform’s Users

After bidding $44 billion, entrepreneur Elon Musk is set to own Twitter. Musk, the man behind SpaceX, Tesla Motors and co-founder of PayPal announced his bid on April 14 to buy the public social media platform at $54.20 per share. Twitter accepted the offer 11 days later on April 25 and it has been said that Musk had sold $8.4 billion worth of Tesla shares to make the bid. The first announcement that Elon Musk could potentially own Twitter brought mixed reviews, as some found the claim so outrageous, they did not even believe it, whilst others began discussing what Musk as owner of the social media platform would look like. 

By acquiring Twitter, Musk will take the company private, and many have wondered what that means for free speech. It is particularly interesting that Elon Musk has taken interest in buying Twitter, as the platform is where many receive their news and stay up to date on global affairs. In America, it has become the platform of politics, as politicians often use the social network to share opinions. Once Twitter is owned by one person, the question from many users is whether others will still be able to freely voice their opinions. Musk has said he still wants free speech to be exercised after his acquisition, however people still feel that Twitter should not be owned by any one person. 

There is also concern that with Musk as owner, he will be able to voice any opinion and thought without facing any repercussions. After releasing a statement on Twitter saying, “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”, Musk later went after Twitter’s head of legal policy, Vijaya Gadde, by claiming she was the platform’s “top censorship advocate”. People don’t trust the businessman to run the network fairly, as he has described himself as a ‘free-speech absolutist’.  

As the richest man in the world, it has been said that Musk can afford to solve homelessness in America and world hunger using his own wealth. In 2021 the United Nations World Food Programme, tweeted that with $6,6 billion they could work to solve world hunger. Musk responded by saying if they could describe how they would use the money, he would sell Tesla stock to do it. However in 2022, no updates on the matter have been announced.  

Some feel they can’t continue using Twitter with Elon Musk as owner since dealings on the platform will only become more politicised and questions of censorship will arise. On a political level, Musk has said he aligns somewhere in between left and right wing. Celebrities have also had mixed reactions, with actress and activist Jameela Jamil tweeting her exit, “I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny.” Ice Cube has asked Musk to take off his shadow ban, tweeting “Free at last!” after Twitter accepted Musk’s bid. After being suspended, Fox News Correspondent Tucker Carlson tweeted “We’re Back.” 

While Elon Musk buying and owning Twitter feels like a sort of social experiment, only time will tell what the future will look like for the platform and how the entrepreneur plans to monitor free speech and censorship. 

Sarah is currently a fourth year student at the University of Cape Town focusing her honours degree in Linguistics. She completed her undergrad in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Linguistics, English Literature and Media Studies. She enjoys learning languages and writing, as well as sitcoms and technology.
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