12:29 JST, November 22, 2022
Can American entrepreneur Elon Musk really run a social media platform properly? His words and actions certainly raise serious concerns.
Musk, CEO of major US electric vehicle maker Tesla, bought Twitter, Inc. for $44 billion (about 6 trillion yen). He fired all nine board members and assumed the CEO position himself.
Twitter is a social media platform that allows users to post short messages and engage in lively discussions. It has become an important infrastructure used by politicians and celebrities to disseminate information.
The number of daily Twitter users is said to exceed 200 million and the platform has considerable influence. Transparency and integrity are essential to its operations.
Musk stressed that the purpose of the purchase was to protect “freedom of expression”.
Twitter has taken down harmful posts such as those containing misinformation and slander or freezing accounts that post such posts, but Musk is said to be unhappy with these processes because he sees them as a violation of free speech.
However, freedom of expression does not mean allowing the publication of any content.
If harmful information is rampant, it can amplify social unrest and division. It can also be used to manipulate public opinion. Allowing such publications to go unchecked is unacceptable.
In the United States and Japan, the delimitation of the prejudicial nature or not of the information disseminated on social networks is, in principle, left to the discretion of the operators. Musk should be aware of the weight of his responsibility as the operator of a major social media platform.
Musk has reinstated former US President Donald Trump’s account, which was permanently suspended after taking Capitol Hill last year. Musk said he followed the results of a survey on Twitter, but there was criticism of how he made the decision.
He also reportedly fired more than half of Twitter’s roughly 7,500 employees. Surveillance posts are labor intensive. It is not good if monitoring is neglected due to rationalization.
Indeed, it is said that the number of problematic posts has increased sharply since its takeover of Twitter. In response, an American automaker, a major American pharmaceutical company and a number of other companies reportedly suspended advertising on Twitter one after another. The voice of advertisers must be taken seriously.
Musk himself has repeatedly posted freewheeling messages on Twitter. He has already been implicated by authorities for possibly misleading investors with false information by suggesting that Tesla be delisted.
Musk needs to change this attitude and make efforts to earn the trust of Twitter users as well as business partners.
(From Yomiuri Shimbun, November 22, 2022)