Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk on Tuesday clarified his stance on free speech, a term he has repeatedly brought up after he bought social media giant Twitter.
After his takeover of the microblogging company was announced late on Sunday, Musk had said he would ensure that free speech was allowed on Twitter, a remark that had caused concern and left many wondering what he meant.
On Tuesday, Musk said, “By ‘free speech’, I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.” He also criticised those who had questioned him, calling it “extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech”.
Musk, the world’s richest person and the chief executive officer of electric vehicle company Tesla, added, “If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.”
According to a regulatory filing on Monday, Musk will buy Twitter for about $44 billion (over Rs 3,36,910 crore) and make it a privately-held firm. This means that the company would no longer be listed or traded on a public stock exchange. Twitter also will not have to report financial information to the United States’ markets regulator Security and Exchange Commission, or follow many of its rules.
Following the announcement, some human rights groups had expressed concern that Musk’s stance on free speech could mean that Twitter might allow greater leeway to hate speech and misinformation, which may have an impact on offline violence.
In the past, Musk has described himself as a “free speech absolutist” and said that he did not believe Twitter was living up to its potential as a platform for free speech.
On Sunday, Musk had said that he hoped that even his worst critics remain on the platform because “that is what free speech means”.
On Tuesday, Deborah Brown, a digital rights researcher at non-government organisation Human Rights Watch, said that freedom of expression was not an “absolute right” and that Twitter needed to make efforts to keep vulnerable users safe, according to Reuters.
The American Civil Liberties Union said that currently, a handful of private technology companies, such as Twitter “play a profound and unique role” in enabling the rights of individuals to express themselves online.
“We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it’s a government or any wealthy individual...having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online,” the organisation said.