On April 25, Elon Musk made history by taking Twitter private through a $44 billion acquisition. Musk claims to have made the purchase with hopes of bringing freedom of speech to Twitter because of how politically biased the app has been with censorship over the past 2 years against Republicans such as former President Donald J. Trump and conservative influencer Rogan O’Handley are just two of the conservative bunch who have had their twitter accounts permanently suspended.
Although Twitter claims that they have been suspended due to violating the platforms rules, it certainly begs the question on whether publicly used social media platforms get to decide what constitutes as freedom of speech.
How does freedom of speech function on social media?
Freedom of speech is a big deal, especially in the United States, as it is what allows for people to be able to speak their minds freely, but over the past few years the biggest technology companies like Google, Twitter and Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) have altered the definition of free speech on social media through censorship to get users to comply with their terms of service or have their accounts restricted.
Private companies setting freedom of speech works somewhat similarly to how students don’t necessarily loose their freedom of speech as soon as they walk into school, but they must adhere to the school policies in order to express any messages.
Why does this affect the status quo of free speech on social media?
The current situation with Musk’s acquisition of Twitter certainly challenges the positions on political censorship that the rest of big technology companies have taken in order to stop the spread of misinformation.
His plan to change how Twitter handles freedom of speech will shine the spotlight on other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, which have received criticisms for censoring anyone who speaks out on certain political issues such as COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccine and the 2020 presidential election.
A new industry standard will arise from Musk’s acquisition and it is sure to challenge other social media platforms moving forward.