As news of the $44 billion purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk reverberated through the social media world, the NAACP urged the Tesla CEO to rid the platform of hate speech and falsehoods and to keep in place a ban on former President Donald Trump.
"Mr. Musk: free speech is wonderful, hate speech is unacceptable. Disinformation, misinformation and hate speech have NO PLACE on Twitter," NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. "Do not allow 45 to return to the platform. Do not allow Twitter to become a petri dish for hate speech, or falsehoods that subvert our democracy. Protecting our democracy is of utmost importance, especially as the midterm elections approach. Mr Musk: lives are at risk, and so is American democracy."
Musk secured the funds available to buy Twitter following weeks of speculation about how he would govern the platform if the purchase came to fruition. He was initially invited to join Twitter's board but declined.
The transaction is expected to close in 2022, subject to the approval of Twitter stockholders, the receipt of applicable regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.
Twitter independent board chairman Brett Taylor said the company "conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon's proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing."
Musk, a self-described "free-speech absolutist," has been critical of the platform and its chief executive Parag Agrawal's approach to free speech.
"Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated," he said in a statement Monday. "I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) noted Musk was a "card-carrying member" and "one of our most significant supporters," but warned of the danger of allowing one person to have so much power.
"In today’s world, a small handful of private tech companies — including Twitter — play a profound and unique role in enabling our right to express ourselves online," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement. "Social media is a critical tool used to share ideas, express opinions, and consume information that has real-life impacts in discourse in the offline world. We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it’s a government or any wealthy individual — even if it’s an ACLU member — having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online."
In recent years, Twitter has found itself in a tight spot amid heavy scrutiny from both sides of the political aisle.
Conservatives have claimed the platform has silenced them and arbitrarily enforces its rules. Trump used Twitter daily to promote his policies and to lash out at his enemies. Many progressives accused the social media giant of allowing him to promote lies and conspiracy theories that could result in violence.
Trump's account was permanently suspended following the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol after weeks of claiming President Biden's election win was not legitimate.
"After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," Twitter said two days after the riot.
Fox Business' Lucas Manfredi contributed to this report.