The parties representing Elon Musk and Twitter started final sales talks on Tuesday. Shareholders asked Musk to raise his offer at the meeting, but Musk said that his offer was the best and final offer. Eventually he made a $44 billion cash deal to buy Twitter.
Musk, the richest person in the world, had previously bought a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter. The company earlier turned down his offer to take over the entire company.
In the message he shared on his Twitter account on Monday, Musk said, “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means.”
Twitter has always been used as a manipulation tool by various governments and groups. Especially in recent years, with the widespread use of bot and troll accounts, there is a lot of discussion about fake trends created on Twitter.
Turkey: Fake accounts as tools of manipulation
Turkey is one such country that is frequently mentioned in discussions over this issue.
In June 2020, social media company Twitter deleted 7,340 fake and hacked accounts that Turkish government-affiliated actors such as the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) youth branches used for propaganda, trolling and targeting purposes.
Twitter made the following statement regarding the accounts that were closed in Turkey:
“Detected in early 2020, this network of accounts was employing coordinated inauthentic activity, which was primarily targeted at domestic audiences within Turkey. Based on our analysis of the network’s technical indicators and account behaviours, the collection of fake and compromised accounts was being used to amplify political narratives favourable to the AKP party, and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan. We’re disclosing 7,340 accounts to the archive today.”
Silencing political criticism on Twitter
While the AKP’s fake accounts have been making use of the platform for manipulation, the broadly defined “violation of personal rights” and “terrorist propaganda” have been used in Turkey by the AKP to censor political criticism on Twitter.
The 61st government, of which Erdogan was the prime minister, blocked Twitter across the country before the 2014 local elections, and the company used the Country Withheld Content tool in Turkey, complying with the Turkish government.
Twitter announced that it broke a record in the number of user accounts that governments demanded content removal in the first half of last year. Turkey ranked third on the list.
Medya News account blocked with reasons unknown
Medya News is among Twitter accounts blocked in Turkey. On 6 August, the account was blocked ‘in response to a legal demand’, the details of which has not yet been disclosed to the account’s owner.
Twitter’s complicity with the censorship demands of governments such as Turkey is at odds with its stated principle of freedom of expression.
The company’s responses to censorship demands of authoritarian administrations including Turkey will be one of the signs as to whether it will truly be a free platform for political criticism under Elon Musk.