Elon Musk, who is ready to take control of Twitter, has raised a new round of questions about how the climate on social media could change after his revelation that he contacted Kanye West after the rapper’s anti-Semitic tweets.
“Spoke to you today and expressed concern about his recent tweet, which I think he took to heart,” Musk tweeted Monday evening.
The Tesla founder, who is discussing the final details of his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, has already given loud signals about his concerns about how speech is controlled on the platform. Former President Donald Trump and others who have been banned by the social media platform are expected to be welcomed back. The case of the West takes Musk’s position to a new level, given the negative reaction to the West in recent days.
Potential changes to Twitter’s moderation policy have been in the spotlight since Musk struck a deal to buy the platform in April. But in July, he quit, Twitter sued, and then attention was focused on the legal drama, including with the whistleblower, as both sides argued about texts, Slack messages and a shared discovery.
Musk, who was preparing to testify and may have run into difficulties in the trial scheduled for October 17, last week renewed his $44 billion offer pending funding. The judge of the Delaware Chancery suspended the trial and gave him until October 28 to close the deal, refocusing attention on the real life of the Twitter owned by Musk just at the moment when the dispute about the West arose.
Twitter blocked the rapper’s account for violating the social media platform’s policies after he tweeted on Saturday that he was going to “death scam 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”
“I’m a little sleepy tonight, but when I wake up, I’m going to die,” said West, also known as Ye. “The funny thing is that I can’t really be an anti-Semite, because blacks are actually Jews too.
The Twitter ban followed restrictions on West’s Instagram account by Mark Zuckerberg, owned by Meta, after West shared a screenshot of a text message exchange with Sean “Diddy” Combs. He accused Combs of being controlled by the Jewish people, saying he would use Combs as “an example to show the Jews who told you to call me that no one can threaten me or influence me.”
West, who has not used Twitter for years, turned to the platform with a complaint. Musk responded by tweeting: “Welcome back to Twitter, my friend!” he tweeted yesterday that he had expressed concern to West.
Welcome back to Twitter, my friend!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 8, 2022
In a statement last week, when the Musk-Twitter merger was once again the subject of discussion, the women’s group UltraViolet warned: “Get ready. Elon Musk is going to open Pandora’s box and flood the Internet again with hate, misogyny, racism and conspiracy theories.”
“If this deal goes through, Twitter will become an even more dangerous place for women, threats of online violence against black women and women of color will increase dramatically, and anti-transgender content will take over the user feed. Donald Trump’s platform will be changed, and he will use his account to spread conspiracy theories and promote political violence,” the message says.
The nonprofit organization Media Matters called the sale of Twitter Mask “the end of the company as we know it, and the beginning of a more toxic platform with incredible potential for real harm.”
The debate over the speech on social media has been raging for many years: technology company executives have repeatedly been called to Capitol Hill for frying. Federal law, in particular section 230 of the Decency in Communications Act, protects platforms from legal liability for most of what appears on their sites and gives them wide freedom of action in controlling content. Both sides have called for the reform of article 230, often (but not always) for different reasons: the right condemns censorship, and the left seeks tighter control over content.