“‘Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square.’”
That’s Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discussing his offer to buy Twitter TWTR, -1.68% for $ 43 billion. Musk was discussing his views on free speech and his attenion-grabbing Twitter bid in front of a crowd at a TED Conference on Thursday.
“So it is just really important that people have the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law,” Musk said.
Musk seemed to evade a question from TED’s Chris Anderson about how Twitter should monitor free-speech concerns as they intersect with threats of violence and hate speech — matters over which Twitter has deplatformed users in the past. Musk merely stated that free-speech rules should mostly be regulated by the country the company operates in, and offered a more transparent algorithm as a solution.
Musk says he wants Twitter to have an “open-source algorithm” to try to improve trust in the platform.
“Any changes to people’s tweets — if they’re emphasized or de-emphasized — that action should be made apparent,” he said. “So anyone can see that that action has been taken so there’s no sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation, either algorithmically or manually.”
Musk was asked by TED’s Anderson whether, if the board at Twitter decides to decline his $ 43 billion offer, there was a “Plan B.” Musk’s reply: “There is.”
See: Here’s how Elon Musk’s buyout offer for Twitter stacks up to what he paid for his stake
He seemed lukewarm on the chances that the Twitter board will accept his bid but did mention that if he had to pay in cash he “could technically afford it.”
If Musk’s Twitter takeover bid fails, 29 people have enough money to buy the company. Twitter board members have not specifically said they are looking for a person or entity to buy the company.
Musk finished his thoughts about Twitter by saying he is more concerned about his views of the platform and free speech, and less about the business of Twitter.
“My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization,” Musk said. “I don’t care about the economics at all.”
Free speech, an increasingly hot topic as the public and investors have reacted in recent days first to Musk’s amassed Twitter stake and then his takeover bid, has limitations under U.S. law. For example, freedom of speech does not include the right to “incite imminent lawless action” or “make or distribute obscene materials.”