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The impending sale of Twitter to Elon Musk has prompted a number of questions about what will become of the popular social media platform once the ultra-billionaire gains complete control of the micro-blogging app.
Black Twitter, a group of influential users whose tweets spotlight issues affecting Black people, is among those who have reason to be concerned about the direction in which Musk might take the app if the sale worth a whopping $43 billion goes through.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the sale could be finalized as early as Monday following about a week of reports that Musk wanted to buy Twitter.
While it’s clear the reports are valid, Musk’s intentions for Twitter remained hazy. But if Musk, his past commentary and the way he’s run his other businesses are any indication, Black people who use Twitter — and there are millions of them — have reasons to be wary.
There are fears Musk could change the way Twitter moderates content from its users, whose words have been policed more aggressively in recent months and resulted in permanent suspensions, like former President Donald Trump. (More on that later.)
The Washington Post described Musk’s social media ambitions in part as wanting “a free speech utopia,” but that could mean allowing misinformation, lies, racism and threats of violence with impunity.
“What Musk seemingly fails to recognize is that to truly have free speech today, you need moderation,” said Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director and CEO of consultancy Anchor Change, recently told the Post. “Otherwise, just those who bully and harass will be left as they will drive others away.”
Musk’s main company, automaker Tesla, has been accused and sued by its workforce of and for racial discrimination for years now in a situation that has not been corrected. The implication for Twitter is that same administrative approach that prompted accusations of racism against Tesla will come to Twitter, which already has a disproportionately white workforce. At worst, that suspicion could become true as Musk — who has said he’s unsure what a “Karen” is — allows racists like Marjorie Taylor Greene to not only regain access to their banned accounts but also resume spewing their white supremacy drivel.
Social media accountability
The free press and other groups have been pushing for accountability on social media platforms for a while now to no avail. But making any inroads in that area with Twitter is not likely to happen if Musk takes over, a prospect that is especially concerning since we are just months away from the pivotal midterm elections.
Building off the above sentiment, without any accountability in place, the potential for the aforementioned misinformation could run rampant. Twitter is a major part of the political infrastructure now, but without any accountability for misinformation that has been proven effective, it could revert back to its former Wild Wild West-like environment that fostered the type of propaganda that helped hand Trump his presidency. Conversely, Black Twitter and its attempts to highlight political issues affecting people of color could be censored.
And speaking of Trump, it’s no secret that his own social media endeavor has been a spectacular flop. If Musk buys Twitter, chances are likely that the racist narcissist and accused traitor will be handed the keys back to his shuttered account that was banned two days after the deadly Capitol Riots for what Twitter called “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
This is America.