OPINION: Elon Musk’s vision for uncensored speech invites bigotry, contention

Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights we have in the United States; it allows us to stand up for ourselves and draw attention to issues we care about. Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has been masked as a protection of free speech. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is just another way for a billionaire to gain more power and control. 

Musk bought Twitter, a popular social networking platform, last week for $44 billion, supposedly to “preserve it as a venue for free speech.” Regardless of if this was truly the intention behind the purchase initially, it has quickly turned into something different. 

Of course, the right to free speech is an extremely important part of our Constitution that allows Americans to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. However, this right can reach a dangerous point very quickly if in the wrong hands. It is so easy for people to take free speech too far, allowing it to turn into hate speech. Though hate speech is allowed within the realm of free speech, it is wildly harmful to people’s mental health and leads to further stigmatization of some groups, especially minorities. This danger becomes much more prevalent when power-hungry people gain control over what can and cannot be done on such large platforms. 

One of the largest concerns with Musk buying Twitter is the status of Donald Trump’s presence on the app. He was banned for his consistent spread of disinformation on the app, for slandering those who do not agree with him and his legislation and for not calling out followers for creating dangerous situations – like when he encouraged the behavior of the Proud Boys following the insurrection at the Capitol. 

Trump and his habit of posting hurtful comments is the largest example of the potential dangers uncensored free speech can lead to. Though Trump is arguably the most well-known example of this, people with smaller followings learn from him and post harmful things as well. It shows that people can post anything, regardless of how it affects others, which might be legal but is not ethical. 

Musk’s plans of encouraging free speech, including discouraging censorship on the app is going to open up the possibility for many more harmful interactions. Though he has addressed the issue of hate speech, saying that it would be mitigated, his allowance of harmful users to be unbanned and back on the app is bound to spread some hate speech. This, however, is the first of many problems that arise from Musk purchasing Twitter. 

It is no secret that Musk isn’t exactly in dire financial need. A simple Google search can tell you his estimated net worth is close to $208 billion, leaving many to wonder what his true intentions are with this purchase. 

One of the first changes Musk has proposed is a monthly fee of $7.99 for some Twitter users. With this payment, users will essentially be purchasing a blue verification checkmark to go next to their name. Those who already have a blue check will also have to pay to keep it. Users with the blue check will be able to post longer video content and their tweets will be more promoted within the app. 

“Twitter’s current lords and peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit. Power to the people! Blue for $8/month,” read a Tweet by Musk. Anyone who can afford to pay eight dollars a month will have their content pushed to a larger audience with blue check priority.

This opens doors for racism, homophobia, sexism and plenty of other civil rights attacks to take place on this app. While Musk did make  a statement saying that hate speech would be curtailed, he is allowing all those banned back on the app, which is bound to reignite the issue. Musk’s biggest goal for this purchase is to allow people to speak their minds without the worry that they will be silenced.

We are living in a society that is completely divided, with extremism on both sides of the two-party system. This is the beginning of a long road in which peace cannot be known while extremism is being encouraged. This shift in power will be more than just an opportunity for people to speak their minds. It is going to be an opportunity for people to misguide others using misinformation and disinformation while Elon Musk sits back and makes a pretty penny off of it.