Twitter: Rights groups decry Elon Musk takeover over 'abusive content monitoring'
Rights groups and activists have decried Elon Musk's multi-billion dollar Twitter takeover, announced on Monday, raising concerns over the monitoring of abusive content on the platform.
The Tesla owner, who describes himself as a "free speech absolutist", made a $44 billion dollar bid for the social media giant, which he said had "tremendous potential".
The firm initially rebuffed Musk's offer, but this week asked shareholders to vote to approve the deal.
After news of the takeover broke, rights groups, including Amnesty International, expressed fears that the platform would relax enforcement policies against harmful content, resulting in further discrimination online.
"Twitter has a responsibility to protect human rights, including the rights to live free from discrimination and violence, and to freedom of expression and opinion – a responsibility that they already too often fail," said Michael Kleinman, Director of Technology and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA, in a statement sent to The New Arab.
"The last thing we need is a Twitter that willfully turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including such as women, non-binary persons, and others," Kleinman said.
Amnesty's 2018 "Toxic Twitter" report, which documented the rise of hate speech on the platform, especially against women and non-binary persons, accused the social media giant of "inadequately investigating and responding to reports of violence and abuse in a transparent manner".
This, they said, forced individuals to censor themselves or leave the platform.
🧵 1/6 Our response to @elonmusk’s takeover of @Twitter: For years @Amnesty has tracked the disturbing persistence of hate speech on Twitter – especially violent and abusive speech against women and non-binary persons. pic.twitter.com/ITVOmYSl1w— Rasha Abdul-Rahim 🇵🇸 #SaveSheikhJarrah 🇵🇸 (@Rasha_Abdul) April 25, 2022
Actor and activist Jameela Jamil announced she was leaving Twitter because of the takeover.
She wrote in her last tweet on Monday: "I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny."
Jamil has spoken out repeatedly about the misogynistic abuse women receive online.
Ah he got twitter. I would like this to be my what lies here as my last tweet. Just really *any* excuse to show pics of Barold. I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny. Best of luck. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/fBDOuEYI3e— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) April 25, 2022
Musk, who has over 80 million followers, took to the platform on Monday to outline his ambitions for the company.
"I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans," he said.
The South African billionaire later tweeted again saying: "I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means."
Activists in oppressive countries have often had to use anonymous accounts to broadcast reports of abuses at home for their own safety.
Ladies and gentlemen: The new owner of @Twitter.@elonmusk pic.twitter.com/l0TREDknUI— سلطان سعود القاسمي (@SultanAlQassemi) April 25, 2022
The White House declined to comment on the takeover, reported the BBC. However, spokesperson Jen Psaki said: "No matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms."
The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has not released an official response to the takeover, The New Arab confirmed.