A dozen advocacy groups are launching a new campaign Friday to stop Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter, warning that if he is allowed to take control, he will weaken important safeguards on the platform.
The Stop the Deal campaign, which was shared with CNBC exclusively, includes plans to put pressure on government agencies to review the acquisition, persuade Tesla stockholders to take action against it, and ask advertisers to pull spending from the platform.
It highlights many progressives’ concerns about Musk’s acquisition and plans for a more open platform allowing for more rampant hate and harassment on the platform.
Accountable Tech, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, GLAAD, and MediaJustice are among the nonprofits taking part.
Musk is already facing regulatory scrutiny over the deal, which he recently stated is “on hold” as he seeks more information on the number of fake accounts on the platform. Twitter executives, according to reports, have told employees that this is not the case. Since the deal and that tweet, Twitter’s stock has fallen as a result of the broader downturn, prompting some analysts to speculate that he may seek a higher price.
On their website, the organizations behind the Stop the Deal campaign warn that Musk “would steamroll basic content moderation safeguards and provide a megaphone to extremists who traffic in white nationalism, hate, disinformation, and harassment — further endangering marginalized communities.” Musk is expected to “reinstate Twitter accounts of public figures who were banned for inciting violence and spreading dangerous disinformation,” according to the campaign website.
Though it does not specifically mention former President Donald Trump, he was suspended from the platform following the January 6 insurgency at the United States Capitol.
Musk has stated that his motivation for purchasing Twitter is his love for the service and his belief that it should serve as a more open forum for a variety of ideas. Musk has envisioned a platform with fewer restrictions on what speech is and isn’t permitted, though he has acknowledged that he would still need to adhere to international laws. He’s also stated that permanent bans, such as the one currently in place against Trump, should be avoided in favor of temporary ones.
However, Stop the Deal organizers argue that less content moderation does not necessarily imply freer speech and will result in more harassment of marginalized communities.
“Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will not result in more ‘free speech’ on the platform,” said Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn. “It will simply lead to more extreme voices taking advantage of the platform to incite hatred, violence, and harassment.” Social media platforms that are nothing more than toxic cesspools of misinformation are detrimental to our society and politics.”
“With more and more online threats manifesting offline, platforms are finally listening to our demands for accountability in creating a safer space online for all people, but especially Black and Brown women and LGBTQ+ folks,” Bridget Todd, UltraViolet’s communications director, said in a statement.
The organizers of Stop the Deal urged users to tweet their opposition to Musk, Twitter advertisers, and Tesla shareholders.
According to the groups, the government could take several legal and regulatory actions to block the deal. The Securities and Exchange Commission could bar Musk from serving as a director or officer of a public company, citing, among other things, his failure to properly disclose his initial investment in Twitter.
According to the coalition, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has the authority to change the terms of the agreement if it determines that foreign investments endanger national security. They cited a disclosure stating that the deal would be partially funded by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
According to the group, the Federal Trade Commission could sue to stop the deal if it is determined to reduce competition. However, that path would most likely be complicated by Twitter’s small share of the social media market in comparison to peers such as Meta’s Facebook.
Twitter did not respond.
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