Elon Musk has come in for a tsunami of criticism since taking over Twitter on 28th October, whether it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ridiculing his plan to sell blue tick marks for $8 a month, or the campaign group StopHateForProfit urging advertisers to boycott the platform now that it’s owned by the South African billionaire.
But if you’re not a woke culture warrior and you care about preserving free speech in the digital town square, the new ‘Chief Twit’, as Musk calls himself, has barely put a foot wrong.
To begin with, he’s said he wants to restore the accounts of people who’ve been banned for purely political reasons rather than because they’ve said or done anything unlawful – a group that probably includes Donald Trump. Indeed, he sacked the person who was responsible for banning Trump, so the former President’s restoration is surely only a matter of time.
But the real significance of this announcement is not the imminent reappearance of Trump, but the fact that people who’ve been banned for challenging fashionable orthodoxies – whether about trans rights, the Covid mRNA vaccine or the so-called climate emergency – will shortly be back on the platform. If we’re to have genuine, grown-up debates about these important issues, Twitter cannot continue to ban those who challenge liberal groupthink.
He’s also sacked the entire board and most of the c-suite, which shows he’s serious about wanting to change the left-wing culture of the social media giant. Among those to go was Vivaya Gadde, Twitter’s Chief Legal Officer, who was responsible for the decision to block the New York Post when it attempted to tweet its cover story about Hunter Biden’s laptop on the eve of the Presidential election. Even if she hadn’t made that decision, she might not have survived. Her reaction to the news that Musk’s takeover was going through was to burst into tears.
Incidentally, the Hunter Biden story was branded ‘fake news’ by Democrats, which is the excuse most big social media platforms give for suppressing facts that punch holes in the dominant narratives of America’s college-educated elite. Musk has no such aversion for these inconvenient facts, as he demonstrated when he posted a link on Twitter to an alt-media news source that raised troubling questions about the alleged attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband. I think we can be reasonably confident that Musk will stop Twitter’s attachment of health warnings to so-called ‘misinformation’, which is code for ‘facts liberals would prefer you didn’t know’.
I think his decision to sell blue ticks is a good idea, even though I’m a blue tick myself. There’s something insufferably smug about most of these Twitter VIPs – and the number of left-wing blue ticks dwarfs the right-wing blue ticks. If the platform is going to become politically neutral, as per Musk’s plan, it cannot continue to grant special privileges to people it’s staff think are important. Selling blue ticks is a much fairer way of distributing this honorific.
As for the StopHateForProfit campaign, no one should take it seriously, including the big companies who’ve suspended their advertising on the platform in response. As Musk himself has pointed out, he hasn’t changed Twitter’s content moderation policies, so the claim that he’s now allowing users to promote ‘hate’ is complete nonsense. Indeed, it’s an example of genuine ‘misinformation’.
We’ve seen a similar campaign in the UK, with the hard left campaign group Stop Funding Hate urging advertisers to boycott GB News, a pro-free speech rolling news channel. While some advertisers have stayed away, having been persuaded by the smears and innuendos of these fake news merchants, GB News has seen its audience grow by 50% between July and September of this year, the only news channel to rise in this period.
Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter was always going to produce a hysterical, toys-out-of-the-pram reaction by the woke left. But his plan to turn it into an open platform, where people can express their political views without fear of being censored or banned, is something all of us who support free speech should applaud.
Toby Young is the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union.
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