Will Twitter Rebrand Taint Musk’s Free Speech Vision for Platform?

July 25th, 2023 7:26 PM

Elon Musk purchased Twitter under the auspice of maintaining free speech in a global town square, but amid news of a company rebrand, could the platform’s other anti-free speech policies and questionable leadership appointments taint Musk’s initial vision?

Musk announced this week in several tweets that Twitter rebranded to “X” and changed the app’s iconic bird logo in an effort to take the social media platform to the next level of technology. Musk described what that next level was back on Oct. 4, 2022 in a tweet: “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app.” Meanwhile, Linda Yaccarino, the anti-free speech former NBCUniversal executive-turned-CEO of Twitter, tweeted that Musk’s rebrand announcement is a “rare” chance to “transform” the global town square. 

“It’s an exceptionally rare thing – in life or in business – that you get a second chance to make another big impression,” Yaccarino tweeted. “Twitter made one massive impression and changed the way we communicate. Now, X will go further, transforming the global town square.”

Although Musk himself has called for a pause in artificial intelligence development, according to Yaccarino, the new Twitter brand will be powered by it.

"X is the future state of unlimited interactivity — centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking — creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities," Yaccarino added. "Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine."

Yaccarino’s troubling confidence in AI is not the only cause for concern with her leadership. MRC Free Speech America reported that she once attempted to pressure Musk to reinstate some of the same Orwellian censorship practices of the “old regime” of Twitter run by former CEO Jack Dorsey, including excessive content moderation designed to combat so-called “misinformation.” Musk ultimately rebuffed her suggestion. But now Yaccarino is CEO of the company, and while Musk’s plan to use “X” as an “everything” tool is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, recent anti-free speech policy developments under Musk paint a bleaker picture of his commitment to his original pro-free speech vision.

For example, Musk pushed forward with the troubling Twitter Community Notes, which are a crowdsourced alternative to professional fact-checking. And while some on the right appear to like the results better, the warning labels are still a form of censorship, albeit by a different name.

In November of last year, Musk described the social media platform’s speech policy as “freedom of speech, not reach,” implying some would be censored for certain views vaguely described as “hate speech.”

“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” he tweeted at the time. “Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.”

It should be noted that Musk’s comments seem to mirror views expressed by Dorsey.

In 2018, NewsBusters reported Dorsey’s claim that the platform does not discriminate against certain political viewpoints.

“We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior, and we use that behavior as a signal to add to relevance,” he claimed at the time.

“We need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left, more left-leaning, and I think it’s important to articulate our bias and to share it with people so people understand us, but we need to remove all bias from how we act and our policies and our enforcement,” he added.

Unfortunately, Dorsey’s seemingly liberty-minded opinion did not last long. In 2019, he claimed that while Twitter’s policies were created in “the spirit of” the First Amendment, it could no longer be a “neutral” social media platform.

“I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance anymore,” he stated. “I don’t believe that we should optimize for neutrality.”

Conservatives are under attack. Contact Twitter: (415) 222-9670 or mail to 1355 Market Street Suite 900 and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on so-called “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.