Seven suggestions for how Elon Musk should run Twitter

In the end, the money spoke. After a tumultuous and acrimonious promotional period, Twitter announced Monday that it had struck a $44 billion deal for enigmatic billionaire Elon Musk to buy the popular microblogging company.

“I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter because that means freedom of expression.” tweeted Musk, who also pledged to “add new features, open source the algorithms to increase trust, defeat spam bots, and authenticate everyone.”

As Twitter heads towards private ownership, here are seven outside opinions on how the billionaire should serve as custodian of the speaking rights and security concerns of millions of users of the service.

David Kaye, Director of the International Justice Clinic and Co-Director of the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at UC Irvine School of Law

“I would be thrilled if Elon Musk would do two things. First, he should emphasize the transparency part of his criticism and open up Twitter to greater disclosure about how it makes and enforces rules. Second, he should abandon his narrow elementary-school version of free speech — in which only the single speaker matters — in favor of a version that understands the unique public role Twitter plays not just for high-profile speakers, but for the marginalized and for the audience. He should see Twitter not as a public space but as a public service broadcaster and strengthen Twitter’s contribution to the public interest. Strengthening its commitment to human rights standards, as well he tweets He loves humanity. If he’s the owner, he should take himself out of the role of governing it – let others make the decisions based on human rights standards, the only ones that make sense for a global platform, or he’ll soon find that every one made Decision reinforces the feeling that he is the ultimate arbiter of language online. And that’s going to be bad for him in the long run, bad for Twitter, and bad for public debate.”

Eugene Volokh, Professor of First Amendment Law at UCLA

“I think Twitter in general should look at its role more as that of a phone company or an email system: providing people with opportunities to talk to other people (especially if they’re actively seeking out such conversations) without controlling what the People say. We don’t want a phone company to cut off the phone lines that a political group is using to reach the public, even if the phone company thinks the group is spreading falsehoods or bad ideas — same, I think, for Twitter and @RealDonaldTrump, or Twitter and the Babylon Bee, who named a transgender admiral ‘Man of the Year’ after Time named the admiral ‘Woman of the Year.’

Danny Spitzberg, principal investigator at Turning Basin Labs, contributor at, organizer at #BuyTwitter

“We’ve seen reactionary right-wingers say that [Twitter co-founder and former Chief Executive] Jack Dorsey censored the truth and had to be held accountable. They also had Valerie Plame, who wanted to buy Twitter, sideline Trump and avoid nuclear war for the sake of democracy. But none of those examples were accountability or democracy — meaning that if interests align for a moment, a higher power serves your agenda. What you think you want from a strong man is not going to happen. They lack that middle layer of deliberation skills. There are many experiments we can do now. Borrow from some tried-and-true models that are simple but haven’t caught people’s imaginations—like some sort of council or jury. When trying to build genuine trust and security on a platform, it’s an industry standard to assume everyone is a stalker. So a logical approach is to give a lot of weight to the contributions of the people who are the typical targets of harassment and hate speech. Let them be the ones who come up with a new code of conduct or new terms and conditions or services.”

Robby Soave, Senior Editor at Reason

“Elon Musk’s best bet would be to delegate content curation to individual users. Many right-wingers are frustrated by Twitter’s inconsistently applied rules, whether they are enforced by algorithms or by the company’s human employees; On the other hand, many progressives worry that lax moderation means more misinformation or harassment. The least divisive way forward is to give users more power to control their own feeds. If you have a low tolerance for inconvenience, you should be able to turn on a setting that will protect you from the worst that can appear on the platform. If you prefer the Wild West, there should be a setting for you too.”

Ellen L. Weintraub, Commissioner of the US Federal Elections Commission

“One of Twitter’s challenges in supporting democracy is to avoid spreading disinformation like wildfire. And content moderation isn’t the only way to slow down disinformation. A wildfire needs not only a spark to ignite the fire, but also wind to fuel the flames. Algorithms are the wind on Twitter. Musk says he wants to open up Twitter’s algorithms. However, the effectiveness of algorithms does not depend on whether you can find their source code on Github. That’s how they are matched. Right now, social media companies’ algorithms tap into “basic human compulsion to respond to outrageous material,” as I wrote in the Georgetown Law Technology Review in 2020. These algorithms are a business practice; they are not a question of freedom of expression. Musk would do well to bring Twitter back to its roots with a chronologically driven timeline that only features content from the Twitter users you follow. And adding a little friction to the mix would be good too. It can reduce virality and increase thoughtfulness without straining the language. This would allow Musk to bring Twitter closer to being a “digital town square where important matters affecting the future of mankind are discussed” without hastening the damage to world democracies.via twitter)

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP

“Mr. Musk: Freedom of speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable. Disinformation, disinformation and hate speech have NO PLACE on Twitter. 45 don’t allow it [former President Trump] return to the platform. Don’t let Twitter become a petri dish for hate speech or untruths that undermine our democracy. Protecting our democracy is of paramount importance, especially with the midterm elections approaching. Mr. Musk: Lives are in danger, as is American democracy.” (via directive)

Brianna Wu, executive director of Rebellion PAC, former congressional candidate and software engineer

“Triple the budget of the Trust and Security Teamand let the professionals who understand how to address Twitter’s inherent problems with harassment do their job.”

About Gloria Skelton

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