Apr 14, 2022 - Technology

Elon Musk plans for a free speech-first Twitter

Photo of Elon Musk with his hand on his chin against a black background
Elon Musk. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk filled in a few more details of his vision for a free speech-first Twitter Thursday after he offered to buy out the company and take it private.

Driving the news: In an onstage interview at the TED2022 conference, Musk said he believes Twitter should follow the laws of the countries it operates in and otherwise not regulate users' speech.

  • He also said he wanted to publish Twitter's ranking algorithm for the public to examine: "It should be on GitHub."

What he's saying: Interviewer Chris Anderson said Musk had told him last week that "I do not want to own Twitter, it's a recipe for misery, everyone will blame me for everything," and asked what had changed.

  • "People will still blame me for everything. ... I think there will be quite a few errors, yes," Musk replied, but now, he said, he feels that the changes he aims to bring to Twitter are worth it.
  • "It's important to the function of democracy, it's important to the function of the United States as a free country, and many other countries, to help freedom in the world," Musk said.

Other highlights:

  • Musk's definition of free speech: "Is someone you don't like allowed to say something you don't like? If that is the case, then we have free speech. It's damn annoying, but that is the sign of a healthy, functioning free speech situation."
  • On difficult content-moderation calls: "If it's a gray area, I would say let the tweet exist. In a case where there's perhaps a lot of controversy, you don't necessarily promote that tweet. I'm not saying I have all the answers here, but I do think we want to be very reluctant to delete things, and just be very cautious with permanent bans — timeouts, I think, are better."
  • Musk said he is not sure his bid to acquire Twitter will succeed, but that he has a "plan B" if it doesn't.
  • He wants the company to hold on to as many current shareholders as it can legally once it goes private.
  • He wants Twitter to have an "edit" button and believes the problems critics raise can be resolved. "I think you only have the edit capability for a short period of time, and zero out all retweets and favorites" after an edit.

The bottom line: Musk said, "This isn't 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."

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