Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter sparks fears of a wave of misinformation

With the US midterm elections less than two weeks away, Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter could unleash a new wave of election misinformation just as voters cast ballots that will determine control of Congress within the next two years, political and media experts said. the next two.

Musk, the chief executive of electric car maker Tesla, said he was an “absolutist” with free speech and vowed to relax the reins of conversation within the social media app, which in recent years has sought to curb toxic content it deemed dangerously false or discriminatory even as its global influence has expanded.

Musk sought to address concerns recently, telling Twitter advertisers that the platform “cannot become a free-for-all, where anything can be said without consequences!” But Musk expressed doubts about the site’s permanent ban on figures such as former President Donald Trump. , who lost his account – and nearly 90 million followers – shortly after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his own.

Musk also indicated that he would relax the site’s moderation policies, and that his plans to make deep cuts to staff may also hamper the site’s ability to monitor its content, something it has sometimes struggled to do in the past, writing on Twitter after completing the acquisition on Thursday. “The bird is released.”

It is unclear how much influence a more moderate Twitter could have on political discourse in the run-up to the November 8 general election, as early voting has already begun in a number of states, and polls show that most voters have already made up their minds.

And a more lenient Twitter could help amplify false narratives about the major election results in the days after November 8 if some candidates refused to accept the result and shouted out fraud as some apprehension might occur. Conservative Twitter – including Republican politicians – on Friday acquired Musk.

While Democrats fear that Trump supporters will promote far-right views or false allegations of election fraud on Twitter if allowed, the site has been a major political tool for years, providing politicians and activists around the world the ability to reach millions of people with largely unfiltered discourse. big.

However, critics warn that the site has also helped spread disinformation — inaccurate or misleading information — and disinformation — intentionally false information — that undermines democratic principles and provides foreign actors with a means to intervene.

Trump question?

Since banning it, Trump has launched his own social media app, Truth Social, said he wouldn’t return to Twitter even if Musk brought it back, and on Friday morning, posted to his 4.4 million followers on Truth Social, bragging that the app contained ” larger numbers” than all other platforms, including Twitter, in a clear indication that it does not intend to switch.

“I’m so glad Twitter is now in sane hands, and won’t be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs who really hate our country,” he wrote, before adding, “I love the truth!”, and after the 2016 presidential election, when security agencies concluded While the United States has indicated that Russia has surreptitiously used social media to launch influence campaigns designed to manipulate outcomes, Twitter and other social media sites have intensified their efforts to prevent the spread of disinformation, with mixed success.

Twitter sought to get rid of false tweets about the coronavirus pandemic, when misinformation about the scale of the disease and the effectiveness of various medical treatments – exacerbated by some political leaders – hampered the public health response.

And in the wake of the 2020 election, Twitter permanently banned Trump and some of his allies, such as attorney Sydney Powell and pillow entrepreneur Mike Lindell, who echoed his false claims that the election had been stolen. The site also deleted thousands of accounts belonging to far-right groups such as the Rod Boys and the far-right conspiracy theory known as Qanoun.

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