The richest man in the world, Elon Musk, bought Twitter and immediately started to change it drastically right around election time without taking into consideration the ethical views with his decisions. It became hard for Twitter to be able to handle any information being posted about the election since so many employees had to leave in such a short span of time with no one able to fill their shoes right away. Some people have gone as far as changing their profile to look like Elon Musk’s to voice their opinions about the election. Which has caused some issues with Twitter wanting to change some of their rules to counteract impersonators. With there have been many complaints about what Musk is trying to do so far with changing the free social media app into a subscription service. Having the new verification process being added to Twitter seems like it’s more of a way for Musk to get his money back while using the idea of preventing impersonators as a cover up. With the ideas of Individualism, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue Theory we can see what type of platform Musk is trying to turn Twitter into. Even if he was unaware of the ethical issues, he had to deal with to get what he wanted down with Twitter and its employees.
Ethics Case Controversy
On October 28, 2022, Elon Musk officially had ownership of Twitter after putting an offer up back in April. He originally wanted to fire roughly half his staff before the bonuses that would come out on November 1st, but after talking with HR he changed it to November 3rd. Part of the reason why HR recommended that he do that was so that the people who would be fired couldn’t sue or anything due to not being able to receive their bonus that was promised to them. And since Musk had been dealing with the lawsuit that Twitter had against him for trying to back out of the original agreement, he probably wouldn’t want to deal with any more lawsuits that are back-to-back. This was only the start to what he was about to do with changing how Twitter is being operated. Not everyone realizes that sometimes what gets posted can have consequences that the social media employees must deal with. On November 7th it was reported that Elon Musk posted a very controversial photo of a Nazi soldier and commented it with how the “homing pigeons the soldier carried, comparing them to the ‘bird’ that is Twitter” (Chabria). Even though the comment that he made was not directly related to the solider in the picture it still causes issues due to the hate that is still in the image because of the presence of the Nazi soldier. There were so many other options for pictures that Musk could have just as easily posted but he chose that one for a reason even if he won’t come out and say it directly. It was around this time too that many advertisement companies have stopped posting ads on Twitter due to the amount of hateful speech that is being said and how some of it is being directed towards these companies such as, General Motors, Volkswagen Group and General Mills. There is a civil rights group calling for advertisers to boycott Twitter because “’it is immoral, dangerous, and highly destructive to our democracy for any advertiser to fund a platform that fuels hate speech, election denialism, and conspiracy theories’” (Oremus). No advertising company wants to back up another company that is not following the same idea of respect or morals because it can also make them look bad. That’s part of the reason why so many influential people try to refrain from saying their opinions on topics unless they felt it was absolutely important to. Musk believes that Twitter “should adhere to principles of free speech, doing little beyond what the law explicitly requires to police itself” (Oremus). It sounds almost like Musk will allow people to say whatever they want until they either trying to impersonate him or go against what he believes to be right opinion. Elon Musk even went as far as banning accounts that were impersonating him even though he is a big activist for freedom of speech. The people who impersonated him had the opposite political view that he had for this midterm election and that caused there to be tension between Musk and anyone who had impersonated him. In the Twitter rules one can “impersonate” another individual as long as they “distinguish themselves in BOTH their account name and bio” (Kolodny). It’s a way to make sure the actual account holder is reliable for what they say rather than get the person or group that they are trying to impersonate in trouble.
On the same day that Elon Musk posted the controversial image he also tweeted to his 115 million followers to vote Republican. This happened after Musk was tweeting about staying politically neutral. There has been more and more misinformation about the elections as time goes by but since Twitter lost 7,500 employees, there isn’t enough people working to be able to keep up with the amount of misinformation that is being posted. Some people noticed a big slowdown in how quick and efficient Twitter used to be when needing to take fake news and other misinformation down. There are a lot of people trying to claim that the WI-FI networks at any location that polling is happening can cause the voting machines to be hacked. There have also been problems surrounding absentee ballots since so many people are starting to believe that mail in ballots is leading there to be a lot more voting fraud since there isn’t anyone making sure each person only drops off one ballot. When there are so many people on a social media platform as big as Twitter it can cause any information whether it is true or not to spread like wildfire. To help counteract some of the misinformation around election time, Elon Musk decided to launch a new Twitter verification process. It was originally supposed to launch before the election but due to the amount of people who got fired it made it hard for it to be launched on time. So, on November 9th the new verification process was launched which now requires people to pay an $8 a month subscription to have that blue check mark next to their name so that the chance of getting impersonated goes down. Some have speculated that the new verification process is a way to help Elon Musk make back the $44 billion that he spent on buying Twitter. Others think it was a way to stop so many comedies from trying to impersonate him and tell people to “vote Democrat” when he is trying to tell people to vote the opposite. (Conger).
Once Elon musk had complete control over Twitter there was a huge increase in hateful speech that was happening. Most of it happening by accounts that are inauthentic. These trolling accounts are causing a lot of problems for the people and employees of Twitter. Since the hateful information isn’t being taken done fast enough it is leading more and more people to repost and add to the other hateful speech. In just a 12 hour window there was a over a 500% increase in the N word, Jew increased fivefold, and misogynistic and transphobic speech increased. It is believed that since “Musk is now the primary owner of the platform, he may follow through with loosening standards of harmful content and dissolving the so-called censorship he has criticized in the past” (Ray). It just goes to show how Elon Musk is trying to change Twitter and how fast it is changing under his ownership. Although some people believe that censoring content doesn’t do anything, statically speaking it has definitely made an impact when Trump got banned because the idea of election misinformation dropped by roughly 73% once he was removed. The type of people on social media really does have a huge impact in what gets posted and how big of an effect it has on the platform. (Ray).
All the people who have and use Twitter have been affected drastically since Elon Musk became the owner. He’s made it hard for people to know if the information they have been reading about the election is true or false. With roughly 7,500 of the staff gone from various positions such chief executive, policy executive, and many more that were completely fired. Some of executives that were fired are, Parag Agrawal, Ned Segal, and Vijaya Gadde. While also cutting “half of its public policy team: and “more than one team that touched election integrity” (Hatmaker). After Kathy Griffin and Rich Sommer were banned on Twitter there were several people who had complained and tried to get them unbanned. Elon Musk Said he would unban them if they chose to go through with the new verification process. It seems like Twitter is going to become like a streaming service and a way for Elon Musk to make back the money he lost buying Twitter.
Companies want employees that will help them achieve their goal in the long term, which means having to get rid of the ones that are holding back the company. With Elon Musk trying to make Twitter better, he needs to have employees that are going to help him achieve his goal. Since Musk wants to make Twitter a better social media platform so that more people would want to use it. Even though Musk is a big advocate for free speech, which means Musk is going to push the boundaries that have been set by society. With the smaller staff size at Twitter anything that isn’t morally allowed to be posted is taking longer to get down, which ends up helping Musk with the idea of free speech. Another one of Musk’s goals would be to maximize profit since that is what businesses would do so that they remain in business. With less employees and the subscription service to verify accounts, it will help increase the over all profit of Twitter.
When Elon Musk bought Twitter, he bought it with the intention of making it better. By doing that he intends on finding ways to make more people on the platform happy. Even though Musk is trying to maximize his own happiness he also must consider the happiness of the users so that he can keep them on Twitter. By trying to get ads to be removed and banning people for impersonating other users it can make the platform more enjoyable for everyone. However, with how long it is taking Twitter to take down certain posts that are problematic, it is not helping with the user’s happiness of the platform. It’s the posts that are targeting specific people that are the more problematic ones and posts that have been made by impersonators.
The users of Twitter should be treated with respect because they are the ones that are going to make it profitable for Elon Musk in the long run. They can’t be treated as just a way to get profit because it goes against the idea of having a good will. Musk would need to be able to find ways to make Twitter better that would benefit the users so that in return they would be able to give him what he wants. Since it is the motivation behind the action that matters more than the outcome itself. Even when Musk tried pulling out of the deal to get Twitter it made it a little clear that he was using Twitter to benefit himself more than making the platform better for everyone who uses it.
It takes courage to be able to own a social media platform because not only does one have to worry about making it interesting enough for people to stay on it but also having to deal with what others are posting. On top of that but also having the self-control to handle any situation without overreacting or causing more problems that might end up causing people to leave the platform. Elon Musk would have needed to be taught how to deal with situations so that it appears like he has control over Twitter. He also would need to be fair with how he treats the people who are impersonating someone or posting things that are against the rules that Twitter has. Since if he treats people differently for doing the same thing then it is going to cause more problems for him down the line because no one would want to be treated differently. Without having the knowledge from either past experiences or from coworkers on how to run a platform like Twitter, it would not have been good for Musk since he would have lacked the wisdom and judgement that would be needed for Twitter. It requires a lot of experience and patience to learn from others on how things should be dealt with in a social media platform compared to other companies since there aren’t as many people watching and seeing what others are saying about it.
Justification Ethics Evaluation
The way Musk is trying to handle everything that is going on with Twitter is not being handled well. It has been causing more problems when it comes to election information because there aren’t enough people to be able to keep up with everything everyone is posting. With the slowdown in the control of misinformation it has caused several tweets to get reposted thousands of times before anything has been done about it. The whole idea of Twitter becoming a paid verification social media app is just a way for Musk to be able to pay off the loans he had to pull out to buy Twitter because Twitter wouldn’t lower the cost after the original agreement. It feels wrong having someone run a social media app that’s as big as Twitter when there have been several times when Musk himself had to remove something he posted. By being the owner, it doesn’t give Musk the right to say and post whatever he wants and the amount of time it is taking for someone in his company to tell him to take down inappropriate posts is a problem. Musk doesn’t have the morals to be able to handle owning the app especially around the times that elections are held because so many people try to impersonate him. It just creates a lot of controversy about what the owner of any platform can and can’t be able to do and Musk seems like he wants to keep trying to push the envelope since he is so into freedom of speech.
Even though Elon Musk has shown that he knows how to run a company and try to make it better he himself doesn’t know how to act on such a platform. By examining what he has done with the platform so far it shows how he hasn’t investigated the ethical views of his ideas. He seems to be very focused on making sure he can say what he wants and to try and find a way to make back the money he lost when he originally bought Twitter. Musk is all for freedom of speech but at the same time it seems almost as if he doesn’t like other people having a different opinion then him or even trying to be a comedian. He did at some point after getting Twitter say that comedy is now legal on Twitter but when some comedians tried to have fun with him it ended with their accounts getting banned or locked. Part of the issue seems to be that Elon is having a harder time trying to run a social media platform since it is drastically different from his other company Tesla and so many people on Twitter will voice their opinions on things that he says.
Conger, Kate. Hirsch, Lauren. “Elon Musk Twitter Take Over”. New York Times. October 27, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/27/technology/elon-musk-twitter-deal-complete.html
Dang, Sheila. Roumeliotis, Greg. “Musk Begins His Twitter Ownership With Firings, Declares the ‘Bird is Freed’”. Reuters. October 28, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/markets/deals/elon-musk-completes-44-bln-acquisition-twitter- 2022-10-28/
Hatmaker, Taylor. “Elon Musk’s Twitter Faces US Midterm Elections, His First High-Stakes Test”. TechCrunch. November 7, 2022. https://techcrunch.com/2022/11/07/elon-musk-twitter-us-midterm-elections/?guccounter=1
Kolodny, Lora. “Elon Musk Bans Impersonation Without Parody Label on Twitter Raising Questions About Free Speech Commitment”. CNBC. November 7, 2022. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/07/elon-musk-unlabeled-twitter-parody-accounts-risk- permanent-suspension.html
Oremus, Will. Hassan, Jennifer. Siddiqui, Faiz. “Musk Recommends Voting GOP, Bans Twitter Accounts for ‘impersonation’”. The Washington Post. November 7, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/11/07/elon-musk-twitter/
Ray, Rashawn. Anyanwu, Joy. “Why is Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover Increasing Hate Speech”. Brookings. November 23, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/how-we- rise/2022/11/23/why-is-elon-musks-twitter-takeover-increasing-hate-speech/