Since Elon Musk announced he was buying Twitter last month, the billionaire has sent out tweet after tweet outlining his plans for the platform, touching on everything from new features to security updates to monetization. But Musk’s overarching reason for committing billions of dollars to buy Twitter is to ensure the platform bolsters free speech.
“By ‘free speech,’ I simply mean that which matches the law,” he said in one of his many recent tweets on the subject. “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.” Musk has also said he thinks Twitter should be more “reluctant to delete things” and “very cautious with permanent bans.”
Musk’s rhetoric has already raised some concerns in Twitter’s home market about how it would impact the platform’s approach to handling harassment, misinformation and content moderation broadly. But Musk’s posture could also create new uncertainties for Twitter’s platform if applied to markets abroad, which account for the vast majority of Twitter’s user base. That’s because definitions of free speech, and the laws governing it, often look very different around the world than they do in the United States.
In some markets, like the European Union, Twitter and its peers are facing growing regulatory pressure to bolster content moderation against hate speech and misinformation. In other markets, Twitter has faced pressure to restrict speech that is critical of local governments. Whatever Musk’s personal views on content enforcement may be, Twitter risks substantial fines and other penalties for not complying with local laws in various countries. In some cases, Twitter has even been banned or threatened with bans.