A poll posted by billionaire businessman Elon Musk has racked up more than two million responses after he asked if Twitter adhered to the principle of free speech.
“Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” he asked.
The final tally after 2 million votes was massively against Twitter’s stance on free speech.
Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy.
Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2022
While Twitter sees itself as a free platform, critics believe that it has used rules preventing hate or abuse to target those of differing views, particularly on contentious issues where it enforces rules which some believe defy common sense and act to deny free speech. For example, politicians have been banned for describing transgender people by their biological sex.
Musk has described himself as a “free-speech absolutist”, and he wrote “the consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”
This led to widespread speculation that the Tesla manufacturer might set up an alternative platform – even as Twitter already faces stuff competition from platforms such as Tik Tok and Instagram.
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy. What should be done?” Musk then asked of his 79 Million followers.
“Is a new platform needed?” he posted.
Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.
What should be done? https://t.co/aPS9ycji37
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2022
There was some kickback to the positioning of Musk as a free speech champion with some comments drawing attention to allegations made against the billionaire’s companies in regard to forming employee unions.
— Aaron Huertas (@aaronhuertas) March 25, 2022
But many more urged the Tesla CEO to set up an alternative to Twitter and ‘reinstate all the banned accounts”. Several comments referenced Twitter’s banning of Donald Trump last year as an example of a platform which stifled free expression.
“If you’re a leftist making death threats against conservatives. or organizing riots, Twitter respects your freedom of speech. Twitter also respects the freedom of speech for media hoaxes. (While banning NY POST for reporting truthful information about Democrats.),” wrote journalist Mike Cernovich.
Several did warn that free speech could not be absolute, as speech promoting harm or violence or targeting children for abuse should never be permitted.