Human Rights Watch (HRW) Saturday warned of the potential impact on free speech and human rights following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, calling the developments “concerning at least, and in some cases outright alarming.” HRW Director for Business and Human Rights Arvind Ganesan called attention to updates that Musk has already brought to Twitter, including layoffs of critical staff, Musk’s own history of sharing “noxious conspiracy theories” and plans to monetise Twitter’s verification system.
Ganesan noted that Musk has fired nearly half of Twitter’s staff, including teams dedicated to human rights, accessibility for users with disabilities and bias and harm reduction. Additional staff responsible for “information security, privacy, and trust” have resigned. Turning to issues around free speech, Ganesan condemned Musk for sharing, and subsequently deleting, conspiracy theories around the attack on Speak of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband. He argued that Musk’s actions confirm his self-proclaimed status as a “free speech absolutist.” According to Ganesan, “Free speech is not the same as ‘any speech’ – there are limits.” Ganesan’s comments echo recent advice by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, who warned Musk in an open letter that “Free speech is not a free pass.” Lastly, Ganesan expressed concern over Musk’s plan to monetise the Twitter verification “tick.” Ganesan believes that this approach increases the risk of impersonation and gives “more currency to disinformation.”