To leave or not to leave? Twitter users debate leaving the platform amid Elon Musk takeover

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Elon Musk is set to buy Twitter for $44 billion (Getty Images)
Elon Musk is set to buy Twitter for $44 billion (Getty Images)

Twitter users have expressed divided views about whether to stay on the platform after the company announced it will be sold to Tesla founder Elon Musk for $44 billion (£34.5bn).

In a statement confirming the news on Monday 25 April, the billionaire said “free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy” and that Twitter is the “digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”.

“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans,” he added.

“Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

But human rights groups, which have long called for stricter moderation of content on online platforms, have expressed concern over the power that such a takeover would give Musk.

“Regardless of who owns Twitter, the company has human rights responsibilities to respect the rights of people around the world who rely on the platform,” Deborah Brown, a digital rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.

“Changes to its policies, features, and algorithms, big and small, can have disproportionate and sometimes devastating impacts, including offline violence.”

Others are fearful that hate speech and misinformation on the apps could rise under the ownership of Musk, who has previously described himself as a “free speech absolutist”.

“Mr. Musk: free speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable. Disinformation, misinformation and hate speech have NO PLACE on Twitter,” US civil rights advocacy group, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said in a statement.

Michael Kleinman, director for technology and human rights commented: “The last thing we need is a Twitter that willfully turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including women, non-binary persons, and others.”

Shortly after the announcement on Monday, Musk tweeted that he hopes that even his “worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means”.

There is also concern that users who have previously been barred from the platform – the most notable example of which is former US president Donald Trump – could be allowed to reinstate their profiles.

The news has divided users, with the hashtag #LeavingTwitter trending on the platform.

Actor Jameela Jamil has already announced her departure from the site, writing in a tweet: “I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny. Best of luck.”

Some have requested a download of their Twitter archive in case they decide to leave.

One user, a professor of digital creativity at the Bayes Business School, sai he put in a request in case “shareholders go along with the decision to support absolute freedom…from responsibilities, accountability, law and values of democracy”.

Others have decided to remain on the platform, noting the advantages of the platform.

“This app is the only place to put a link to something you wrote where [people] might actually read it. What are [you] gonna do, shout the URL into a hole in the ground?” one person wrote.

Another said: “You know I write three blogposts and tweeted them and they went viral. And I published 3 articles in literary journals and they went unnoticed.”

Some said they will make more use of the block button, in case the platform changes its policies around hate speech.

“As long as there’s a block button so I can block those trolls who try to attack me, I’ll stay,” one user said.