Free Speech!! Except… You Don’t – The Changes on Twitter and the Meaning of Free Speech

We probably all have heard it… Elon Musk finally bought Twitter. How bad can it be?! Well… As someone who uses Twitter quite a lot (don’t ask why), I tell you, it’s…. somewhat of a new experience. If you keep yourself on the side of the memes and the “wholesome” stuff on Twitter, then you don’t see a lot of change. Except… If you want to talk about anything more sensitive and about Elon Musk himself– Well, get ready for some drama.

So let us first begin with the basic information to understand this whole drama. Our big billionaire boy Elon Musk officially bought it on October 27th, 2022 for a whopping 44 billion USA Dollars. During that time of negotiation, Elon Musk advocated for more free speech on Twitter.

But after buying Twitter, you can see people getting blocked by Musky for criticising him for certain choices he made with some changes. An example of this change would be the blue verification mark on Twitter, This blue checkmark was used to differentiate between professionals, important people or companies from casual users. This may help people to find official writers instead of an impersonator on Twitter. 

What our big boy has done, however, is make the blue verification mark purchasable for anybody for $8 per month. As you hopefully can imagine, people are not happy about this. This “easy” purchase makes it hard for people to see whether they have found the official people or an imposter. Musky-Wusky does not understand why people are mad about this new feature, however. He began to post memes like these to make his point that people are being too sensitive about this. 

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Our big meme-maker here fired 3700 employees after he bought Twitter. Many of these workers didn’t even know why they were fired, while some of them knew that it was because of their political standpoints. Another reason is that Musky wanted to cut some costs [1]. 

So… Our “self-made” billionaire advocates for free speech… While massively blocking people who criticise him (Or fire them if they work on Twitter)… when it does not suit his views. Ah yes, free speech indeed. 

But this is where I want to touch upon what the meaning is of free speech. The first thing that I want to point out (and what our big boy probably needs to learn to accept) is that free speech means that you can indeed say whatever you want, but what you also have to accept is that people have the right to criticise it too.

The second thing that I want to mention is the paradox of tolerance, coined by Karl Popper. What can be dangerous about free speech (and not criticising some of the hot takes of people), is that we might tolerate the things that we should not be tolerating. Yes, free speech is very important, and so is criticising the more questionable speeches of some people.

And back to Elon Musk… He is indeed not tolerating some subjects… Except… he is not tolerating the things that we should be able to tolerate, and in the meantime he let us tolerate the opinions that we should be careful for.

So in these past two weeks, we can already see some questionable changes on Twitter. I of course cannot predict the future, but I dare to say that it won’t become better. For now, I will try to remain on the more wholesome side of Twitter as much as possible. And if I have to, I will leave it. For now… Let’s hope that Elon Musk’s advocacy for “free speech” has at least some monitoring for the more intolerable side of some people.

For more information:

  • [1] Elon Musk’s Twitter lays off employees across the company
  •, The Paradox of Tolerance
  • Popper, Karl R.. The Open Society and Its Enemies. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020.