Elon Musk is officially taking over Twitter for $44 billion and as he fires executives and promises big changes such as reversing lifelong bans, there is panic among centrists. What if he just lets all the right-wingers like Trump and Hopkins come back? Is this place going to become a right-wing free-for-all?

Elon Musk is officially taking over Twitter for $44 billion and as he fires executives and promises big changes such as reversing lifelong bans, there is panic among centrists. What if he just lets all the right-wingers like Trump and Hopkins come back? Is this place going to become a right-wing free-for-all?

Now, first of all, I'm no Musk fan and I certainly have concerns about his takeover, but we need a sense of perspective here. These right-wing nutters were on Twitter for years while you were using the platform quite happily and honestly, pluralism should be embraced. 

While you may have rejoiced in their de-platforming, a sinister trend was emerging - that was the de-platforming of people who had done nothing wrong. There was a period when left-wingers were constantly being removed from Twitter with no explanation given. Some were reinstated after appeals, but these appeals often took up to six months. 

If you weren't concerned about the de-platforming, you were probably not one of the people in the firing line. Twitter has been a safe space for centrists, but not so safe for anyone who challenges establishment narratives. The same goes for Youtube and Facebook.

I'm not totally against de-platforming by the way. 

Musk feels Twitter rules should go no further than the law on free speech, i.e., if your words are not criminal, they should be allowed on Twitter. I pretty much agree with that sentiment. 

I don't want tech giants to decide that my perfectly lawful views should not be seen by people who've chosen to follow me. Also, if someone does violate the law on Twitter, I would still be reluctant to issue a lifetime ban. I believe only the most serious of offences should warrant such a punishment. 

Musk has said he is in favour of timeouts. I would have a clearly laid out set of punishments for various sins - one-week ban, one-month ban, etc, and an appeals process that was guaranteed to be responded to within a certain time frame, preferably 48 hours. Clearly, waits of up to six months are unacceptable.

Musk is talking of reducing staff numbers by 75% to a skeleton crew of only 2,000 employees, which suggests very little moderation will be going on, unless the process becomes fully automated, which would be a farce. I actually expect very few people to be getting bans. 

On one level that is a good thing, but there is a good argument for banning the likes of Trump because his Twitter activity could've been seen as inciting violence. Trump should've been at minimum looking at a lengthy ban, and if Musk feels he deserved no punishment at all, that is concerning. 

The flipside is TikTok is currently censoring politicians like Zarah Sultana and Jeremy Corbyn for no reason and we do not want Twitter going down this route. TikTok is opaque about its processes and Twitter will have to be transparent if it's to restore trust.

Here's the thing many people are overlooking: if you dislike someone's content you can simply block them. This is what I do and it makes my Twitter experience so much smoother. I heard something a while back that Musk might remove the blocking feature, but he seems to have fallen quiet on that front. 

Removing the blocking feature would clearly be unacceptable. Twitter users can be subjected to the most horrific abuse, threats and doxxing, and removing the blocking feature would put people at risk. If this happened, I fear it would be a red line for millions of Twitter users, which is why I suspect Musk won't do it. He's a billionaire who thinks with his pocket.

One area of concern is Musk's plans for monetisation: a lot depends on how he approaches this. He mentioned a small monthly fee for a blue tick, which I'm not necessarily against, but he also spoke of charging organisations to use Twitter. 

Would he consider my blog to be an organisation? I'm just a person! Would he charge me to reach my own followers, something Facebook tried a few years back? There is no way I could pay for that. My fear is Musk could render people's Twitter accounts useless by saying they've got to pay to reach more than X number of people. However, this is another move that could cause Twitter to haemorrhage users. 

Musk will be carefully looking at what will make more financial sense. If on balance a plan will make him more money, he will do it, and if it costs him money, he won't.

My final concern about Musk is what he will do with the Twitter algorithm. He calls himself a free speech absolutist and said he bought the platform to help humanity because he wanted "civilisation to have a common digital town square".

These are good words and hopefully, this would mean no more algorithmic bias, but I do not trust Musk. I could easily see a scenario where the algorithm is heavily biased in favour of the right-wing. This would be a dangerous manipulation of democracy and it's hugely concerning that one man has so much influence over the political destiny of the world. 

Musk now has control over 300 million monthly Twitter users, making him among the world's most powerful media moguls. I suspect many countries could be tightening their laws to counter him and other tech billionaires. 

This could be a good thing. Governments are fine with algorithmic bias when it favours them but not when it goes against them. Perhaps they could now be pushed into the formation of a genuinely neutral internet. I know you think I'm being naive but I can dream!

So in answer to my initial question: should you leave Twitter? I would ask you what exactly that would achieve. If your concern is that Musk would amplify right-wing voices then your leaving the platform would only help amplify them further. 

We should be using every platform we have at our disposal to raise our voices and counteract right-wing nonsense. If we run away from every platform owned by an evil billionaire, then we won't have a single platform left. In short, you should definitely stay!

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