before being twitter CEO, owner and “chief Twit” Elon Musk has often criticized the platform’s content moderation methods, and even Target Vijaya Gadde, the company’s former policy director. But while Musk has voiced his concerns about “liberal bias” on the platform, many activists, journalists, and advocates outside the U.S. — where most of Twitter’s users live — have grown concerned that Twitter is operating without a board of directors or How a shareholder case led by a CEO with multiple business entanglements will respond to authoritarian and authoritarian-leaning governments that have long sought to control public opinion.
“How he handles pressure from countries like Saudi Arabia and India — I think those are key indicators of where he’s going on the platform,” said David Kaye, a former UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and clinical law professor in University of California, Irvine.
Although Twitter has nowhere near as many users as Meta-owned Facebook or Instagram, it is widely used by activists, civil society groups, journalists and politicians — all influential in shaping public policy and opinion. The platform has proven crucial for those organizing protests in places like India, Nigeria and Argentina, and provides a way for people living in highly controlled societies like Saudi Arabia to express criticism of their governments.
Jason Pielemeier, executive director of the Global Web Initiative, said Musk’s goal of building Twitter’s user base to more than 1 billion people could also affect his willingness to battle foreign governments to keep content on the platform.
While they may not currently account for a large share of Twitter’s revenue stream, countries with large and growing online populations such as Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan are attractive markets as the company looks to increase revenue And increase its user base, according to Pielemeier. But he said all of those countries were at loggerheads with Twitter or the wider social media company. Last year, the Nigerian government ordered all internet service providers (ISPs) to block Twitter after the platform removed a tweet by the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, for violating its policies. The government lifted the ban only after Twitter agreed to open an office in the country and pay local taxes.
In India, Twitter’s third-largest market, the company filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the government’s order to remove individual content and entire accounts that the government believes poses a risk to India’s security or sovereignty.
But Raman Jit Singh Chima, senior international legal counsel and Asia-Pacific policy director at Access Now, worries that Twitter under Musk may not go ahead with the lawsuit. (In a countersuit against Twitter in August, Musk said India’s lawsuit posed a threat to the company’s presence in its third-largest market.) “It would demonstrate a very questionable set of unconstitutional actions by the Indian government,” Say. “It also sends a signal to the global tech industry to say ‘stand back and don’t try to do more.'”
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