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The Twitter Deal

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April 27, 2022

What is the issue?

Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for roughly 44 billion dollar, promising a privatization to promote free speech.

What is the deal about?

  • In the past several years, the billionaire Elon Musk often questioned Twitter for censoring some voices and accused Twitter’s terms and guidelines for tweeting information related to coronavirus.
  • Elon Musk had said that he wanted to buy Twitter outright, taking it private to restore its commitment to free speech.
  • Earlier this month, Musk purchased a 9.2% stake in Twitter.
  • The company's board has resisted this and deployed the “poison pill” mechanism.
  • And now, Elon Musk has finally bought 100% stake in Twitter for approximately 44 billion dollar, around 54.20 dollar per share, and all of it in cash.

What changes are expected?

  • Free speech- Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy.
  • The right to free speech is believed to be the first thing Musk would solve as the owner of Twitter.
  • Edit option- Earlier this month, the Twitter said that it will test the edit option with Twitter Blue subscribers first, followed by a stable release.
  • Musk could help in the early release of the edit button.
  • Spam accounts- In 2020, Musk's account was among high-profile Twitter accounts that were hacked to push a bitcoin scam.
  • Musk is expected to remove spam accounts or spambots, which as per him is Twitter’s most annoying thing.

What are India’s “reasonable restrictions” on free speech?

  • Article 19(1)(a)- It gives all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • By the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, “reasonable restrictions” were placed on the fundamental right to free speech under certain conditions.
  • The reasonable restrictions can be imposed
    • in the interests of the security of the State
    • friendly relations with foreign States
    • public order
    • decency or morality
    • in relation to contempt of court
    • defamation or incitement to an offence
  • Section 69(A) of the IT Act, 2000- As per the act, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) can ask any social media intermediary to take down content that violates the law and Constitution of India.
  • It gives the ministry the power to issue emergency orders which can be challenged in a court of law only after the intermediary has done as requested by the ministry.
  • Non-compliance can result in a jail term.
  • The IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021- It mandates due diligence by intermediaries with regard to content and requires them to appoint a resident chief compliance officer.

What are the implications for Musk’s maximalist ideas on free speech?

  • Free speech- The free speech is understood differently by people belonging to different political ideologies.
  • Open-source model- Musk has said that Twitter’s algorithm should be based on an open-source model, so that users will have insight on which tweets are promoted and which are hidden on users’ timelines.
  • Making such a change in Twitter’s software would lay bare the role that computer programmes play in policing content posted on the platform.
  • Conservatives in the West have repeatedly complained that Twitter’s algorithm is biased against them.
  • Defeating bots- Musk’s idea of defeating bots and providing every human-operated Twitter account with a verification badge may also prove to be a difficult task.
  • The proof of identity that would be required for his proposal to verify all users can be copied or faked and defeating bots could consume a lot of resources.

 

References

  1. https://www.indiatoday.in/technology/news/story/elon-musk-buys-twitter-new-owner-parag-agrawal-1941741-2022-04-26
  2. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/elon-musk-twitter-free-spech-india-donald-trump-bots-7887847/
  3. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/buying-free-speech-the-hindu-editorial-on-elon-musks-twitter-buy/article65357748.ece
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