The business world was sent into frenzy on Monday night after Twitter accepted a $44bn buyout offer from Tesla tycoon Elon Musk.
With eccentric billionaire taking the firm into private ownership, the question on everybody’s lips is what Musk will do next. Describing the site as a “digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”, the focus has understandably been on free speech ramifications.
So far, Musk has said he wants to eradicate spam bots and make algorithms open source, meaning the code that sits behind certain posts that are directed to certain people will be made public knowledge.
Whilst this is a great news for transparency, there are question marks about what this means in practice, especially from a site that banned Donald Trump.
However from a UK perspective, the looming Online Safety Bill has been framed as an “immediate roadblock” for Musk’s ambitious goals.
As Head of Public Policy at think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs Matthew Lesh explained, whilst Musk’s acquisiton may be deemed a victory for freedom of speech, the new laws ultimately hinge on mandating platforms to proactively monitor user content and encourage censorship at the mercy of multibillion pound fines.
The EU also echoed this sentiment this afternoon, urging Musk to comply with Brussel’s new digital rules under The Digital Services Act.
Commercially, there are also repercussions. “The challenge will also be maintaining and building revenue given that the controversial opinions he hopes to give more of a free rein to, are often unpalatable to advertisers”, Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said.
Therefore, Musk may need to refine his “free speech absolutism” before he rocks the boat too much at Twitter.