Musk's Twitter takeover could 'unravel' work to make the site safer, campaigner warns

Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter puts him right at the centre of the social media and free speech debate - Robert Moore reports

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter could “unravel” years of work to make the platform safer, one campaigner has warned.

Seyi Akiwowo, chief executive of UK-based online safety organisation Glitch, highlighted Musk’s decision to remove Twitter’s head of legal policy, trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde.

Ms Gadde is one of several senior figures – including chief executive Parag Agrawal, who have reportedly been ousted after Mr Musk took control of the company. Mr Musk reportedly intends to take on Mr Agrawal's role, according to Bloomberg.

Mr Musk’s belief in what he calls “absolute free speech” and that any content which is not illegal should be allowed to stay on Twitter has previously raised concerns among safety experts.

Credit: PA

The new Twitter owner has also suggested he does not agree with permanent bans from the site and that he would allow previously suspended accounts, such as that of former US president Donald Trump, to return to the platform.

Ms Akiwowo said she was “very concerned” that the Musk takeover would mean that “the progress Twitter has finally made on safety over the last six years will unravel in the next few weeks”.

Posting on Twitter, she called on the site’s users collectively to lobby the company to commit to continued existing safety standards.

“We need to organise. We need an agreed code of practice, the minimum standard we expect Twitter to adhere to no matter what,” she said, adding that users should be “prepared to leave” the platform if these standards were not met.

“If we’re not willing to be organised, influence, fundraise, be uncomfortable and truly commit to allyship… Elon Musk and the far-right ideology masked as freedom of expression will win. Other platforms will follow and there will be a race to the bottom – doing the bare minimum.”

On Thursday, Mr Musk moved to reassure nervous Twitter advertisers that he would not allow the site to become a “free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences”.

He said the site would be “adhering to the laws of the land” and must be “warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences”.

The billionaire’s plans to open up Twitter’s content rules are also likely to face difficulty when new tech regulation comes into force in the UK and around the world.

The EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton this morning tweeted: "In Europe, the bird will fly by our [EU] rules."

He also included the hashtag "DSA" in reference to the Digital Services Act, one of the two legislative initiatives that aims to "create a safer digital space".

The former PM of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, this morning remarked: "The need for rules and accountability is bigger than ever."

He added: "Self-regulation in social media has never worked… even with lesser characters than [Mr Musk's]".

Although recently delayed again, the Online Safety Bill in the UK would compel platforms to remove all illegal content.

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