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Elon Musk urged to “clean up” Twitter’s digital public square

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Elon Musk must weed out “coordinated armies of bot accounts” on Twitter that are disrupting genuine debate if he is serious about building the platform on free speech, the chairman of the joint committee on the free speech bill has said. online security.

Tory MP Damian Collins says the billionaire must follow through on his pledge to support free speech on the site and ‘defeat spambots’ after it was confirmed he had reached a 34-year deal £.5 billion to take over the platform.

Mr Collins is a leading figure in the tech sector review, having led a Joint Committee of Parliament to consider the Online Safety Bill, the government’s proposed new internet safety rules.

“Elon Musk calls Twitter the place of the digital city, but it has become a place where free speech is drowned out by coordinated armies of bot accounts that spread misinformation and division,” he said. .

“Twitter is a place where many users feel inhibited from speaking out, due to the hate and abuse they will receive.

“This digital public square is currently not a place of real debate, but a forum where campaigns, sometimes supported by Russian state agencies, seek to outsmart Twitter’s algorithms to promote their worldview and suppress any opposing voice.”

“If Elon Musk really wants to make Twitter a matter of free speech, he’ll have to clean up the digital city square.”

Reaction to Mr. Musk’s takeover proposal has been mixed, with some industry experts, academics and even Twitter users worrying about the Tesla boss’s stance as an “absolutist of freedom of expression” and whether that might mean a relaxation of content moderation rules.

But Twitter founder Jack Dorsey hailed the takeover, calling it a “right way” for the company and welcoming the decision to let Mr Musk take the social media platform into private ownership and away from the advertising model and Wall Street.

“In principle, I don’t think anyone should own or run Twitter,” Dorsey said.

“He wants to be a public good at the protocol level, not a company.

“Solving the problem of being a business though, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to expand the light of consciousness.

Downing Street said “regardless of ownership, all social media platforms must be accountable”.

“This includes protecting users from harm on their sites,” the prime minister’s official spokesperson said, adding that Twitter was an “important tool” and that the government would “continue to work with them to ensure that ‘he continues to improve’.

But online safety campaigners have warned that any changes to content moderation could have a “chilling effect” on children’s safety on the site.

Some internet safety activists are concerned about the move (Yui Mok/PA)

Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at children’s charity NSPCC, said there was an urgent need to clarify the approach a Musk-led Twitter would take to tackle online abuse. .

“There is a huge difference in results between a platform tackling online sexual abuse and meeting basic legal requirements,” he wrote in a tweet.

“It is too early to draw conclusions, but the headwinds indicate a crippling effect. Proper regulatory guardrails have never seemed more important.

“The tension between libertarian views and the fight against illegal behavior is not new, but it is pressing.

“Would Twitter still look for child abuse in DMs? If the Online Safety Bill prevents Ofcom from proactively requiring it, where are we? »

Elsewhere, actress and The Good Place activist Jameela Jamil was among those who said they would leave the site as a result of the deal.

“I fear this offer of free speech will help this hellish platform to reach its final form of totally anarchic hatred, bigotry and misogyny. Good luck,” she said.

The names of other smaller social media platforms have also been trending on Twitter since the announcement as users debated whether to switch to alternative sites.

Mr Musk tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, saying: ‘The extreme antibody reaction from those fearful of free speech speaks volumes.’