Musk bears heavy responsibility for operation of social media platform

Can U.S. entrepreneur Elon Musk really manage a social media platform properly? His words and actions certainly raise strong concerns.

Musk, chief executive officer of leading U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla, purchased Twitter, Inc. for $44 billion (about ¥6 trillion). He dismissed all nine members of the board of directors and assumed the post of CEO himself.

Twitter is a social media platform that allows users to post short messages and engage in lively discussions. It has become an important piece of infrastructure used by politicians and celebrities to disseminate information.

The number of daily Twitter users is said to exceed 200 million and the platform has tremendous influence. Transparency and integrity are essential to its operations.

Musk has emphasized that the purpose of the purchase is to protect “free speech.”

Twitter has been deleting harmful posts such as those with disinformation and slander or freezing accounts that make such posts, but Musk is reportedly dissatisfied with such processes because he sees them as a violation of free speech.

However, free speech does not mean allowing any content to be posted.

If harmful information is rampant, it can amplify social unrest and division. It can also be used to manipulate public opinion. Allowing such posting to go unchecked is unacceptable.

In the United States and Japan, delineating whether information on social media is harmful or not is, in principle, left up to the judgment of operators. Musk should be aware of the weight of his responsibility as the operator of a major social media platform.

Musk has reinstated the account of former U.S. President Donald Trump, which had been permanently suspended after the storming of Capitol Hill last year. Musk said that he followed the results of a survey conducted on Twitter, but there has been criticism of the way he made that decision.

He also reportedly fired more than half of the approximately 7,500 Twitter employees. Monitoring posts takes a lot of manpower. It is not good if monitoring is neglected due to streamlining.

In fact, it is said that the number of problematic postings has increased sharply since his purchase of Twitter. In response, a U.S. automaker, a major U.S. pharmaceutical company and a number of other firms have reportedly suspended advertising on Twitter one after another. The voices of advertisers should be taken seriously.

Musk himself has repeatedly made freewheeling posts on Twitter. He was once called into question by authorities for possibly misleading investors with false information by suggesting that Tesla be delisted.

Musk needs to change this attitude and make efforts to gain the trust of Twitter users as well as business partners.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 22, 2022)