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How will Elon Musk's Twitter purchase impact free speech on social media? B.C. expert weighs in


Changes could be coming to Twitter after Elon Musk acquires it for $44 billion, and one sociology expert in B.C. says the world's richest man's quest for free speech could have worrying consequences.

CTV Morning Live spoke with University of British Columbia sociology professor David Tindall Wednesday about the takeover and its potential impacts. Critics worry Musk will have too much power, while others are praising the deal, saying it will protect free speech online.

"There's reason to have mixed feelings about this. One thing is that Elon Musk embraces a kind of Libertarian view of free speech, which basically results in anything goes," Tindall said.

"Twitter and some other platforms already have problems with the dissemination of disinformation and uncivil communication and bullying … one of the worrying things is that sort of could actually get worse under Musk."

Musk has previously called Twitter "the digital town square where matters vital to the future are debated," but Tindall said that ideal isn't being realized yet. 

"I think there's bits of it that are happening, but there's also some ugly forms of manipulation and bullying and so on that's also happening," he said.

In recent years, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have taken actions to limit the spread of misinformation, especially during the pandemic. Some people have been banned, while others users may see prompts to "think twice" before posting things. For example, Twitter users are now prompted to open an article link before simply retweeting it.

"I think there's perhaps more stringent sorts of things that could be done," Tindall said, giving an example of moderators who take a more active role. "There's more that could be done, but I think the worry is that Musk will move in the opposite direction."

Tindall said other issues could arise from the platform being owned by someone of such significant wealth and actually move away from free speech in some ways.

"One of the virtues of people initially talk about with regard to social media is it kind of levelled the playing field, that the average person could say what they wanted to say," he said, adding that Musk's purchase gives power to the richest man in the world to make the rules and decide "who gets to say what."

"This has the potential of moving things in the other direction."

Watch the full interview with David Tindall in the video player above. Top Stories

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