Oct 27, 2022 - Economy

Elon Musk: Twitter won't become a "free-for-all hellscape"

Elon Musk is displayed on a computer screen.

Elon Musk is displayed on a computer screen. Photo: Muhammed Selim Korkutata/Anadolu Agency

Elon Musk said in a note Thursday that Twitter must be "warm and welcoming to all" and not a "free-for-all hellscape" in order for it to reach its full potential.

Why it matters: In an overture to advertisers, Musk seemed to walk back the idea of total free speech on Twitter and promoted it as a digital town square with some limitations.

What he's saying: Musk wrote in a tweeted note to advertisers that Twitter should be "a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence."

  • "Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!"
  • Musk added that Twitter users must be allowed to choose a "desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature."

Between the lines: Musk’s note to advertisers came shortly after the Wall Street Journal reported that marketers are concerned about Musk’s stance on content moderation and potential conflicts over ads.

The big picture: Musk has been pushing for free speech-first Twitter since April, saying that the social media company should follow the laws of the country and not regulate people’s words, Axios’ Ina Fried reported.

  • “If it's a gray area, I would say let the tweet exist,” Musk said at the TED2022 conference in April about content moderation. “In a case where there's perhaps a lot of controversy, you don't necessarily promote that tweet."

Meanwhile, social media companies that have held an “anything goes” policy have often seen their platforms lead to more violence, spam, fraud and bullying, Ina writes.

  • Election misinformation, deep fakes and manipulated media, targeted attacks and hate speech, and other currently barred content could return if Twitter becomes free speech first, Axios reports.

Thought bubble via Axios' Peter Allen Clark: The ongoing saga over the Twitter deal has been marked by backtracking and trolling, so any pledge to make the social media platform a welcoming place should be taken with a grain of salt.

Go deeper: A timeline of the Musk-Twitter deal so far

Editor's note: This story was updated with details throughout.

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